Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Sydney FC

It may only be Round 8 but this is already looming as a crucial game for the Phoenix, especially because it's on their home turf.

Date: Sunday, November 27 Kick-off: 2.30pm AEDT, 4.30pm Local Venue: Westpac Stadium

Head-to-head Played 13: Wins: Wellington 4, Sydney FC 8, Draws: 1

Previous encounter Sydney FC 2, Wellington 0, February 9, 2011

History: Sydney have enjoyed the best of these encounters over the years, winning eight and drawing one of the 13 games. Despite a disappointing campaign last season, the Sky Blues still managed to beat the Phoenix in two of their three meetings, including a comfortable 2-0 victory at the SFS in the penultimate game of the season. A Nick Ward own goal and a second half strike by Brendan Gan gave Sydney all three points.

Form: Past five matches: Wellington Phoenix: LLLDD Sydney FC: WDWWL

The Phoenix are still looking for their second win of the season after only managing a draw at home to Adelaide last time out. Despite dropping another two points at home it wasn't such a bad result for Ricki Herbert's men who, made up for a disappointing first 45 minutes with a spirited fightback in the second half. Will need to start turning home games into wins though if they are to figure in the finals equation.

Sydney FC's four-game unbeaten run was brought to an end with an entertaining 3-2 defeat to the Central Coast Mariners. It was yet another case of giving their opponents a start before producing a late comeback.

Unfortunately for the Sky Blues they fell just short on this occasion. Vitezslav Lavicka will be drumming into his side all week that they can't afford to give the Phoenix such a start and hope to come away with the points.

Match Committee: Englishman Paul Ifill came off the bench last weekend in his return game from a groin injury and could earn a recall to the starting side in a huge boost for the Phoenix.

Vince Lia (knee) also made a strong comeback against the Reds from a long layoff and should again anchor the midfield alongside Tim Brown. Youngster Mirjan Pavlovic (arm) may be considered for a recall while Daniel (hamstring) and Dani Sanchez (hip flexor) will have to shrug off their complaints to play.

Sydney have no injury concerns at the moment with Finnish striker Juho Makela back in full training and will travel with the 15 players from last week's match before Lavicka trims his squad by one before kick-off.

The only problem for Lavicka is the continued absence of youngsters Rhyan Grant, Sebastian Ryall and Dimitri Petratos, who are away with the Olyroos. Shannon Cole was impressive off the bench against the Mariners last weekend and could force his way into the starting line-up.

Danger men: Paul Ifill - Oh how the Phoenix have missed the creativity and skill of Ifill over the opening few weeks of the season. The 32-year-old made just his third appearance of the season last week and made an immediate impact, coming off the bench to send in the cross which led to the equalising goal. If he can stay fit, the Phoenix's form will start to turn the corner pretty quickly.

Brett Emerton - Emerton has looked more and more comfortable with every appearance in the Sky Blue jersey. While Lavicka has yet to work out the best way to use the Socceroo star's attributes, if he keeps executing free kicks like he did against the Mariners last week then Sydney will continue to stay towards the top of the A-League ladder.

At the end of the day… It may only be Round 8 but this is already looming as a crucial game for the Phoenix, especially because it's on their home turf. Wellington have historically struggled to pick up points on the road, managing to play finals football the last couple of seasons thanks to their brilliant home form.

But that's all changed so far this campaign with the Phoenix winning just one of four games in New Zealand. With their away from failing to improve so far it means they could be in for a long season unless they can start taking maximum points at Westpac Stadium.

It will come as no comfort for Herbert and his squad then to hear they are coming up against a Sydney side that has yet to lose on their travels in 2011/12. The Sky Blues have played four away games so far this season for two wins and two draws and will fancy their chances of adding to that impressive record when they travel across the ditch for this one.

Of course stats only paint some of the picture. The Phoenix have looked better in the last couple of weeks owing to the fact they are finally starting to get a host of key players back from injury.

The return of Ifill is significant and the Englishman has tormented Sydney in the past. If he does so again then there's a good chance the home side will come out on top.

Given Sydney's slow starts to games this season you would expect they will come out full of purpose on Sunday. If the Phoenix can withstand the early onslaught they may just go on to get back on winning ways at home. If they don't then it's hard seeing them stopping the Sky Blues from taking all three points with them back on their Qantas flight home.

Squads Wellington Phoenix Squad: 1. Mark Paston (GK), 2. Manny Muscat, 3. Tony Lochhead, 4. Brent Griffiths, 6. Tim Brown, 7. Leo Bertos, 8. Paul Ifill, 9. Chris Greenacre, 11. Daniel, 12. Nicky Ward, 13. Niko Tsattalios, 15. Cameron Lindsay, 17. Vince Lia, 18. Ben Sigmund, 20, Tony Warner (GK), 22. Andrew Durante (C), 24, Alex Smith *two to be omitted*

In: Cameron Lindsay (promoted), Niko Tsattalios (promoted). Out: Nil Unavailable: Lucas Pantelis (knee injury - indefinite), Jimmy Downey (knee injury - 2 to 3 weeks), Dani Sanchez (groin injury -- 1 to 2 weeks), Mirjan Pavolovic (broken arm - 1 week).

Sydney FC squad: 1. Liam Reddy, 3. Jamie Coyne, 4. Pascal Bosschaart, 5. Michael Beauchamp, 6. Hirofumi Moriyasu, 7. Brett Emerton, 8. Karol Kisel, 9. Bruno Cazarine, 10. Nick Carle, 12. Shannon Cole, 15. Terry McFlynn (c), 17. Terry Antonis, 18. Juho Makela, 19. Mark Bridge, 20. Ivan Necevski, 21. Scott Jamieson *one to be omitted*

Ins: Nil Outs: Nil Unavailable: Nil