Western Sydney are struggling to score goals and the absence of their best player in Aaron Mooy is a huge blow.
Date: Sunday, December 2, 2012 Kick-off: 2.30pm AEDT, 4.30pm Local Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ
Previous encounter: N/A Form: Past five matches: Phoenix: LLLWD Wanderers: WWLWL
The Game: Wellington got their season back on track with two impressive results on the road but will be delighted to be back on home turf for the clash with the impressive competition newcomers.
Following their 3-0 thrashing of the Newcastle Jets a fortnight ago, Ricki Herbert decided to keep his side in Australia for the week and the move payed off as his troops came away with a well-earned 1-1 draw with Perth.
Given Wellington's current resurgence they are unlikely to make any changes to their starting side, with the Phoenix line-up looking fairly settled with no major injury worries.
The Wanderers' home struggles continued as they went down 2-0 to a 10-man Melbourne Victory last weekend, making it just four points from a possible 15 at Parramatta Stadium.
Their road form though (two wins from three games) should give them confidence they can upset the Phoenix. Tony Popovic is will be missing the influential Aaron Mooy who is away on Socceroos duty, leaving a big hole in the centre of midfield. Youssef Hersi is serving the last game of his two-match ban meaning Shannon Cole should keep his spot on the right of midfield. Japanese star Shinji Ono is still searching for his first A-League goal.
The big issue: Phoenix - It's been the main reason for their appearance in the last three finals series but Wellington haven't been able to turn Westpac Stadium into the same fortress so far this season. While their form on the road has been rather impressive of late, the Phoenix have won just once from three games at home this campaign.
There's no doubt opposition teams don't like heading across the ditch to play but unless Ricki Herbert's side can make the 'Cake Tin' a stronghold again, they may struggle to make the top six again.
Wanderers - Please see the last eight weeks. This weekend marks the end of the first round and the one constant for the Wanderers has been their ability - or lack thereof - to find the back of the net.
Popovic has got his side playing to a well-organised structure, with some fluent passing but things continually break down when they get into the final third. The Wanderers have shown they are more than competitive for the rest of the league, but until they find a cutting edge consistent results just won't come.
The game breaker: Jeremy Brockie - If there was one question mark over the Phoenix before this season it was if they could find anyone to help Paul Ifill with the goal-scoring burden. In Brockie they have found that man. The New Zealand international has been in sensational form this season and is in good goal-scoring touch, netting five times in the last four games. If the normally-resolute Wanderers defence are even slightly off, Brockie will be sure to cash-in given his current hot streak.
Prediction: Phoenix 3-1 Wanderers The Wanderers proved just a fortnight ago against the Glory that they can go on long road trips and come away with a win. Wellington haven't been as formidable on their home patch this campaign as they have in previous seasons but if they are to push for the finals again then this is a game they should be winning. Western Sydney are struggling to score goals and the absence of their best player in Mooy is a huge blow. Phoenix should be way too strong in this one.