Preview: Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix
Melbourne boasts a strong record over the Phoenix, having won two matches against them last season, while it suffered its only defeat against the New Zealand outfit in November last year.
Date: Sunday September 13 Kick-off: 3:00pm AEST Venue: Etihad Stadium, Melbourne TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is 774 ABC (Melbourne) and The Radio Network 1035 AM (Wellington). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com.au
Head-to-head Played 6: Wins: Melbourne 3, Wellington 1. Draws: 2
Previous meeting Melbourne Victory 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, Round 21, January 2009
Season so far: Melbourne Victory: Round 1: Melbourne Victory 0, Central Coast Mariners 2, Etihad Stadium Round 2: Melbourne Victory 3, Brisbane Roar 3, Etihad Stadium Round 3: North Queensland Fury 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 4: Perth Glory 2, Melbourne Victory 1, ME Bank Stadium Round 5: Melbourne Victory 1, Newcastle Jets 1, Etihad Stadium
Wellington Phoenix: Round 1: Newcastle Jets 3, Wellington Phoenix 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium, Round 2: Wellington Phoenix 2, Perth Glory 1, Westpac Stadium, Round 3: Brisbane Roar 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 4: Sydney FC 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, Sydney Football Stadium Round 5: Wellington Phoenix 1, Adelaide United 1, Westpac Stadium
Analysis: The door in and out of Melbourne Victory has been busy this week after several key personnel changes at the club. Danny Allsopp is off to Qatar while former Brisbane winger Robbie Kruse and National Youth League product Mate Dugandzic have been given two-year deals.
The changes signal a bit of a freshen up for the club, with a view to securing the future, but Ernie Merrick's concerns are with the present and getting three points against Wellington at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Melbourne has picked up five points from five matches so far, including two from three matches at home. While it is far from a disastrous start to the season, it is fair to say Victory is yet to hit its peak and will be looking to Sunday to help launch the season.
If Victory is to go on and defend its premiership and championship then it is going to have to do it without Billy Celeski, who suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the club's most recent match, the 1-1 draw with Newcastle. Grant Brebner, who has had his own battle with injuries over the past couple of years, has been endorsed to replace Celeski in the midfield.
Perhaps the most significant return for Melbourne could be that of skipper Kevin Muscat, who is rated an even-money chance of playing in this match. Muscat has not played since the opening match of the season, and while Adrian Leijer has been able to fill his spot on the field, Victory has missed his leadership. Should he be declared fit to take on the Phoenix, he will probably play in a central back three alongside Leijer and Rody Vargas, who has worn the captain's armband in his absence. It would mean another shuffle-up in the defence, the sixth in as many matches.
Further up-field, Merrick will not find out about the fitness of Carlos Hernandez until after he gets back from Central America on Saturday, but given the way he backed up from a similar trip last season, you would think he is a good chance to play. Tom Pondeljak missed a training session this week, but is right to play.
Archie Thompson, who has scored three goals in his past three matches, will have the get used to playing without his strike partner of the past four years, but Ney Fabiano should fill the void nicely. The Brazilian is a different type of player to Allsopp, but his physical, energetic style of play has endeared him to both the club and the fans. A decision of whether Kruse comes into the squad will be made closer to match day.
Melbourne boasts a strong record over the Phoenix, having won two matches against the Phoenix last season, while it suffered its only defeat against the New Zealand outfit in November last year. Victory fans will remember the significance of the 2-0 win against the Phoenix in Round 22 last year. Thompson's late goal secured not only a win, but the premiership by virtue of scoring more goals in the season than second-placed Adelaide.
The man he beat for that goal, Glen Moss, faces up against his old team for the first time in a Hyundai A-League match and is very much looking forward to taking on many of his former team-mates.
Like Melbourne, Wellington has had a win, two draws and two losses in its first five matches. It-s most recent result was a 1-1 draw at home to Adelaide, where in-form Barbadian striker Paul Ifill scored in the first half before Adelaide equalised. The Phoenix look a much more even side this year, with Leo Bertos providing much of the drive from the midfield. The former Perth player has been involved in most of Wellington's attacking forays and while he is one of six Phoenix players coming off a trip to Jordan for the All Whites, will have to be watched closely.
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 5.Surat SUKHA, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Nathan ELASI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 22.Nick WARD, 23.Adrian LEIJER *one to be omitted*
In: Carlos HERNANDEZ (return from international duty), Kevin MUSCAT (return from injury)
Out: Billy CELESKI (knee - season)
Unavailable: Evan BERGER (groin - 2 weeks)
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. DIEGO, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL. 9. Chris GREENACRE, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 12. Jiang CHEN, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 16. David MULLIGAN, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 21. Marco ROJAS, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES *five to be omitted*
In: Manny MUSCAT (return from international duty), Jiang CHEN (promoted), David MULLIGAN (promoted), Marco ROJAS (promoted), Costa BARBAROUSES (promoted)
Unavailable: Adrian CACERES (hamstring - 1 week)
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