Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Sydney FC

Wellington Phoenix host Sydney FC in Round 11 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Westpac Stadium on Sunday December 22 at 5.00pm AEDT.

Wellington Phoenix host Sydney FC in Round 11 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Westpac Stadium on Sunday December 22 at 5.00pm AEDT.

Head-to-head:

Played: 23, Wins: Sydney 11, Wellington 11, Draws: 1

Previous encounter:

Sydney FC 2-1 Phoenix, November 23 2013

Form:

Past five matches: Wellington: LLDLD Sydney: WLWWW

The Game:

Another game, another semi-promising performance, another defeat - it's been the same story for the Phoenix all season and it was no different against the Central Coast Mariners at North Sydney Oval last Thursday night. The Kiwis created some good chances early on, but Stein Huysegems missed a penalty and the champions took the points courtesy of Storm Roux's goal. Sydney laboured to a 2-1 win at home to Melbourne Heart last Sunday thanks largely to some individual brilliance from Alessandro Del Piero just before half-time. When the Italian marquee went off injured at the break, Frank Farina's side ceded all the momentum to their visitors and were fortunate to hang on. Those accusations of being a one-man team persist, and not without cause. What can the Sky Blues do to change that perception?

The big issue:

Wellington – Who to believe about Carlos Hernandez and Wellington Phoenix? The club claim he didn't feature in the 1-0 defeat to the Mariners due to a 'recurrence of a muscle' injury. Other reports indicate there has been a falling out between NZ side and the Costa Rican playmaker over the club dragging their heels on flying his family out to join him. As a major creative force in the final third, Wellington need to keep the playmaker happy and on the field. If he genuinely was injured, they need to get him back and firing.

Sydney FC – How is skipper Alessandro Del Piero feeling? A back problem forced him off at half-time in the win over Melbourne Heart last time out, and they looked shaky without him, allowing the previously woeful visitors back into the contest. Against a better team, they might have given away the two-goal lead to draw or even lose. Either the physio needs to work his magic or Frank Farina must find a way to make Sydney function without their fragile skipper.

The game breaker:

Nikola Petkovic - the Serbian defender has been a steady figure at the back for Sydney so far in 2013-14. Despite failing from the spot against the Mariners, Huysegems has been a physical presence and a threat for the Phoenix of late, and will need to be well-marshalled if the visitors are to blunt the Kiwi attack and give themselves a chance of claiming the points.