This is the part of the season where players start to accumulate yellow cards and are subsequently are suspended.
This match is a good example of that with both clubs missing key players for a potentially top-six-defining fixture.
Wellington skipper Andrew Durante has notched up five cautions and will miss, leaving coach Ricki Herbert to go in with a restructured back four whilst Jets boss Branko Culina will have a similar problem with his skipper Ljubo Milicevic sidelined due to a red card on Wednesday night.
In addition to Milicevic, midfield general Kasey Wehrman will serve a one-match ban for his accumulation of yellows and it will be interesting to see what path Culina goes down to fill his midfield, especially as Ruben Zadkovich is out with a back injury.
Back to Wellington and another huge loss is goalkeeper Mark Paston who will miss the remainder of the season with a depressed fracture of the tibial plateau. The New Zealander cannot take a trick in recent seasons but luckily for the Phoenix, they have a more than apt replacement in Danny Vukovic who has been there and done it all before.
A tough match to pick with the Phoenix mixing their form in recent weeks but enjoying the comfort of playing at home whilst the Jets are in top form, winning their past three and going unbeaten for seven matches.
With Wellington sit just outside the six, I sense they may be happy to come away with a point here, just to consolidate whilst the Jets won’t mind getting through unscathed and maintaining their undefeated streak.
Verdict: 1-1 draw
Wellington Phoenix vs. Newcastle Jets
Date: Saturday, 18 December 201
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Local kick-off: 7:00pm (5.00pm AEDT)
Referee: Jarred Gillett
Head-to-Head: All matches (played 11): Wellington Phoenix wins 6, Newcastle Jets wins 4 (1 draw)
Match fact: Wellington Phoenix midfielder Leo Bertos is set to make his 100th Hyundai A-League appearance; meanwhile Paul Ifill is set to make his 50th Hyundai A-League appearance.
Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1, FS1 HD & Sky Sport 1 (NZ). A-League club broadcast partner is The Radio Network (Wellington) 1035AM and 1233 ABC Newcastle. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.co.nz
Wellington Phoenix squad: 2. Manny MUSCAT, 6. Tim BROWN (c), 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 11. DANIEL, 12. James MUSA, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Mirjan PAVLOVIC, 15. Jade NORTH, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 19. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 21. Marco ROJAS, 23. Dylan MACALLISTER *one to be omitted*
In: James MUSA (promoted), Reece CROWTHER (promoted), Mirjan PAVLOVIC (promoted)
Out: Andrew DURANTE (suspended – 1 match), Mark PASTON (gk, knee – season)
Unavailable: Tony LOCHHEAD (groin – 1 week), Oscar Roberto CORNEJO (knee – 1 week), Nick WARD (knee – 3 weeks)
Newcastle Jets squad: 40. Matthew NASH (gk), 2. Taylor REGAN, 3. Adam D’APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 11. Tarek ELRICH 13. Sasho PETROVSKI, 14. Labinot HALITI, 17. Marcello FIORENTINI, 18. Marko JESIC, 19. Ali ABASS, 22. Kaz PATAFTA 24. Francis JEFFERS, 27. Tomislav MISURA, 31. Jacob PEPPER, 26. James VIRGILI, 1. Ben KENNEDY *one to be omitted*
In: Jacob Pepper (promoted), James Virgili (promoted), Tomislav Misura (promoted), Ben Kennedy (returns from injury)
Out: Zhang SHUO (omitted), Ljubo Milicevic (suspended – 1 week), Kasey Wehrman (suspended – 1 week), Ruben Zadkovich (injury - back)
Unavailable: Neil YOUNG (illness – indefinite), Michael Bridges (Knee - six weeks), Jeremy BROCKIE (Broken foot - 6 to 8 weeks), 5. Sean ROONEY (knee-season) 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE (suspension), 6. Ben Kantarovski (knee - indefinite)