Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Sydney FC

It's hard to know just how much impact Frank Farina can have on his new side after just a week in charge.

Date: Sunday, December 9, 2012 Kick-off: 2.30pm AEDT, 4.30pm Local time Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Head-to-head: Played 18: Wins: Wellington 9, Sydney FC 8, Draws: 1

Previous encounter: Wellington 2-0 Sydney, October 6, 2012

Form: Past five matches: Phoenix: LLWDW Sydney FC: LLLLD

The Game: After observing from the stands last weekend, Frank Farina officially takes charge of his first game at the helm of last-placed Sydney FC. And the former Socceroos boss couldn't have asked for a tougher challenge first-up than a visit to in-form Wellington.

The Sky Blues have lost their last five matches against the Phoenix and haven't won at Westpac Stadium since January 2008. At least the Sky Blues head into the clash having snapped a four-game losing streak and after keeping a rare clean sheet in the 0-0 draw with Melbourne Heart last weekend.

They are expected to be without star striker Alessandro Del Piero due to a hamstring strain, however. Kruno Lovrek or Mitch Mallia are likely to earn a spot in attack in the Italian's absence.

Socceroos midfielder Jason Culina will be pushing for a starting berth after two appearances off the bench while defender Sebastian Ryall is available following a one-game ban.

The Phoenix have surged up to fifth spot on the back of a three-game unbeaten run. They will also have plenty of confidence after defeating Sydney 2-0 back in the opening round of the season. There's no new major injury worries for Phoenix boss Ricki Herbert who is likely to stick with the same squad that edged out the Western Sydney Wanderers 1-0 last weekend.

The big issue: Phoenix - Finding some goal-scoring support for Jeremy Brockie. The former Newcastle, Sydney and North Queensland attacker has been in career-best form this campaign. He is finally starting to add goals to his exciting attacking play, scoring exactly half of his side's tally for the season.

The problem for the Phoenix will be getting other players to help ease the burden on the 25-year-old. It will be much more difficult for opposition sides if they have a number of threats they need to stop rather than just Brockie.

Sydney - Playing without Del Piero. The last time the Sky Blues were without the 2006 World Cup winner they were on the end of a 7-2 hammering at the hands of Central Coast.

While the same result shouldn't be expected in this match, Sydney must find a way to cope without their main man. This is where senior players like Terry McFlynn, Pascal Bosschaart, Jason Culina and Adam Griffiths will need to step up to carry the load and guide the youngsters in the windy and daunting conditions in Wellington.

The game breaker: Jeremy Brockie - It says a lot about Brockie's form that even his crosses seem to find their way into the net. Last week's 'flukey' winner against Western Sydney was the New Zealand international's sixth goal from his last five games, a strike rate that has triggered Phoenix's return to form. He seems to have something of a free role this season, popping up both centrally and on the flanks, which is proving a nightmare for opposition defences. Sydney's usually leaky back-four will need to plug the gaps if they are to keep Brockie quiet.

Prediction: Wellington 2-0 Sydney It's hard to know just how much impact Farina can have on his new side after just a week in charge, even if he scheduled double training sessions and cancelled the players' day off.

There's no doubt he will improve Sydney's fitness and style of play but Sky Blues fans will have to wait at least another week to see any dividend. The Phoenix are simply playing too well at the moment, while the expected absence of Del Piero and Sydney's horror record in Wellington makes this result a near formality for the home side.