The Phoenix had the weekend off and will be nicely freshened for this – a match that can really enhance their finals chances.
The New Zealand club have been mixing their form in recent times with two wins, two losses and a draw from their past five so it is hard to tell exactly where they are.
From a Victory point of view, they are experiencing a great run with four wins on the trot in their seven-match unbeaten streak.
Friday’s come-from-behind 2-1 win over Central Coast Mariners away from home backed up their tough 2-1 victory over Newcastle Jets last Monday and they will be determined to continue their storming run which could see them finish in the top four if the teams above them keep dropping points.
The loss of Robbie Kruse to the Australian squad will be hard to cover but enter Danny Allsopp who has been signed following a stint with DC United in MLS and knows all too well how to score goals in the blue and white. Add to that the return of Matthew Kemp and Leigh Broxham and Ernie Merrick has plenty of options to choose from although he has opted to rest skipper Kevin Muscat.
In the Phoenix camp, Jade North joins Kruse at the Asian Cup as Tony Lochhead comes back after missing three-and-a-half months with injury.
The head-to-head record between these sides heavily favours the Victory and I expect them to continue their brilliant recent form with a slender win on the road.
Verdict: Victory 1-0
Wellington Phoenix vs. Melbourne Victory
Date: Wednesday, 5 January 2010
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Local kick-off: 7:30pm (5.30pm AEDT)
Referee: Chris Beath
Head-to-Head: All matches (played 11): Wellington Phoenix wins 1, Melbourne Victory wins 4 (6 draws)
Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1, FS1 HD & Sky Sport 1 (NZ). Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is The Radio Network (Wellington) 1035AM, 774 ABC (Melbourne), and SEN Digital. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.co.nz
Wellington Phoenix squad: 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Nick WARD, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 19. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 21. Marco ROJAS, 22. Andrew DURANTE, 23. Dylan MACALLISTER
In: Tony LOCHHEAD (return from injury)
Out: Jade NORTH (international duty – 4 weeks)
Unavailable: Paul IFILL (leg – 7 weeks), Mark PASTON (gk, knee – season)
Melbourne Victory squad: 1. Michael PETKOVIC (gk), 3. Mate DUGANDZIC, 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 7. Matthew KEMP, 8. Grant BREBNER, 9. RICARDINHO, 11. Marvin ANGULO, 12. Rodrigo VARGAS, 13. Diogo FERRERIA, 14. Billy CELESKI, 15. Tom PONDELJAK, 16. Carlos HERNANDEZ, 18. Danny ALLSOPP, 19. Evan BERGER, 20. Sebastian MATTEI (gk), 23. Adrian LEIJER (c)
In: Danny ALLSOPP (new signing from DC United), Leigh BROXHAM (returns from injury), Matthew KEMP (returns from injury)
Out: Kevin MUSCAT (rested), Robbie KRUSE (international duty – 4 weeks)