Preview: Wellington v Adelaide
For a while there life was looking pretty rosy for Wellington. It claimed a point in its Round-20 match against Adelaide United at Hindmarsh Stadium and then followed that result with eight goals and nine competition points in the next three contests.
Date: Saturday, January 30 Kick-off: 7pm local (5pm AEDT) Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1, 1 HD and Sky Sport 1. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is The Radio Network 1035 AM (Wellington) and 107.9 Life FM (Adelaide). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.co.nz
Head-to-head Played 8: Wins: Adelaide United 4, Wellington Phoenix 0, Draws: 4
Previous meeting Adelaide United 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Hindmarsh Stadium, Round 20, December 2009
Past five matches: Wellington Phoenix: Round 21: Central Coast 0, Wellington Phoenix 2, Bluetongue Stadium Round 22: Wellington Phoenix 3, Brisbane Roar 1, Westpac Stadium Round 23: Wellington Phoenix 3, North Queensland Fury 0, Westpac Stadium Round 24: Perth Glory 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, ME Bank Stadium Round 19: Melbourne Victory 4, Wellington Phoenix 0, Etihad Stadium
Adelaide United: Round 21: Sydney FC 1, Adelaide United 0, Sydney Football Stadium Round 22: Gold Coast 1, Adelaide United 1, Skilled Park Round 23: Adelaide United 1, Central Coast Mariners 1, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 19: Adelaide United 2, Perth Glory 3, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 24: Melbourne Victory 2, Adelaide United 0, Etihad Stadium
Analysis: For a while there life was looking pretty rosy for Wellington. It claimed a point in its Round-20 match against Adelaide United at Hindmarsh Stadium and then followed that result with eight goals and nine competition points in the next three contests.
But just when the Phoenix's finals berth looked locked away they went and lost two matches in five days - last Friday Perth beat them 2-0 and then on Australia Day Melbourne gave them a touch-up with a 4-0 result.
With a four-point buffer on the Central Coast Mariners, it's unlikely the Phoenix will surrender their place in the finals. But they'll need a rapid form reversal if they want to have an impact come the business end of the season.
Coach Ricki Herbert says the upcoming three weeks will test the 'strength, character and determination' of his players and has urged them to vie for a place in the top four and a home final rather than hang-on and settle for sixth spot.
The good news for Wellington is it's tackling an out of form, out of confidence and undermanned Adelaide United this Saturday.
The Reds have picked up just two points in the last five weeks and appear to have lost some of that steely determination they displayed when they were still in the race for finals.
United enters this clash with some of its best cattle on the sidelines injured. Alemao, Cassio, Mark Rudan, Mark Birighitti and Paul Reid didn't make the journey to New Zealand while Lloyd Owusu, the striker the Reds have been building their game around in the last few weeks, is in China trialling with a Super League club.
With these players not in the selection mix, coach Aurelio Vidmar has been forced to bring in National Youth League regulars Frankie Monterosso, Evan Kostopoulos and reserve goalkeeper Nick Munro.
While the trio have raw talent it does make the Reds squad look vulnerable if more players go down with injury although the last time Vidmar injected youth into his line-up he had some success against Brisbane Roar.
Adelaide hasn't lost to Wellington in eight matches but that record is about to be broken. The Phoenix, in front of a bumper Christchurch crowd, will break their two-game losing streak against an unsettled opposition.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. DIEGO, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Adrian CACERES, 15. Eugene DADI, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 40. Liam REDDY (gk)
In: DANIEL (promoted)
Out: Costa BARBAROUSES (omitted)
Unavailable: Mark PASTON (gk) (leg - season), Vince LIA (suspended - 1 week)
Adelaide United squad: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk), 2.Robert CORNTHWAITE, 4.Iain FYFE, 5.Daniel MULLEN, 7. Lucas PANTELIS, 8. Kristian SARKIES, 10.Adam HUGHES, 13.Travis DODD (c), 14.Scott JAMIESON, 15.Francesco MONTEROSSO, 16.Inseob SHIN, 17.Michael MARRONE, 18.Fabian BARBIERO, 19.Mathew LECKIE, 25. Evan KOSTOPOULOS, 40.Nick MUNRO (gk)
In: Lucas PANTELIS (returns from suspension), Kristian SARKIES (promoted), Francesco MONTEROSSO (promoted), Evan KOSTOPOULOS (promoted from youth team), Nick MUNRO (gk) (promoted from youth team)
Out: Mark RUDAN (quad - 1 week), ALEMAO (hip - 1 week), CRISTIANO (knee - 1 week), Lloyd OWUSU (on trial in China), Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk) (groin - 1 week)
Unavailable: Paul REID (groin - 2 weeks), Joe COSTA (knee - long term injury list), CASSIO (calf - 2 weeks)