Preview: Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix
Melbourne can seal the double chance with a win over Wellington on Friday, but a bigger prize awaits if Victory can comprehensively beat Wellington and Adelaide fails to do the same against Central Coast on Sunday.
Date: Friday January 23 Kick-off: 8:00pm AEDT Venue: Telstra Dome, Melbourne
TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1 and Sky Sport 3. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is SEN (Melbourne) 1116AM and Radio Network (Wellington) 1035AM. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com.au
Head-to-head 5 A-League meetings: Melbourne Victory - 2 wins, Wellington - 2 wins, Draws - 2
Previous meeting Wellington Phoenix 2, Melbourne Victory 1, Westpac Stadium, Round 13, November 2008
Past Five Matches Melbourne Round 17: Melbourne Victory 3, Sydney FC 2, Telstra Dome Round 18: Melbourne Victory 2, Queensland Roar 1, Telstra Dome Round 15: Melbourne Victory 1, Adelaide United 0, Telstra Dome Round 19: Perth Glory 3, Melbourne Victory 2, Members Equity Stadium Round 20: Melbourne Victory 3, Central Coast Mariners 0, Telstra Dome
Wellington Phoenix: Round 15: Wellington Phoenix 1, Perth Glory 1, Westpac Stadium Round 16: Wellington Phoenix 1, Central Coast Mariners 0, Westpac Stadium Round 17: Queensland Roar 3, Wellington Phoenix 2, Suncorp Stadium Round 18: Wellington Phoenix 3, Newcastle Jets 0, Westpac Stadium Round 19: Sydney FC 1, Wellington Phoenix 0, SFS Round 20: Wellington Phoenix 1, Adelaide United 1, Telstra Dome
Analysis Melbourne can seal the double chance with a win over Wellington on Friday, but a bigger prize awaits if Victory can comprehensively beat Wellington and Adelaide fails to do the same against Central Coast on Sunday.
The difference between top two spots on the ladder is the choice of which order the Major Semi-Final legs are played, but in the longer term, the title of Hyundai A-League premiers also ensures entry into the lucrative Asian Champions League for 2010.
Victory is in the advantageous position of playing its game first, meaning it can determine its own destiny and put the pressure on Adelaide to do the same. The Reds lead the ladder on a better goal difference, but should Melbourne defeat Wellington with ease then the Reds hold on the Premier's Plate could be very shaky.
But Ernie Merrick doesn't want his players to think about goal difference ahead of this match. He wants them to play the style of football they have shown at home in the past month, which has resulted in wins over Sydney, Adelaide, Queensland and Central Coast.
The form of Melbourne's strikers Archie Thompson and Danny Allsopp has been excellent in recent weeks and Allsopp boasts five goals against the Phoenix in five matches.
Interestingly, Thompson has never scored against the Phoenix, the only team the A-League's most-prolific striker has not scored against. Having broken a four-match spell without a goal last game, he will be hoping to break another drought this week.
Matthew Kemp comes into the squad and with the Phoenix boasting a less-robust forward set-up then the Mariners, he may come into the starting line-up. The other position to be debated will be whether Melbourne goes for Ney Fabiano or Carlos Hernandez, or possibly both.
Wellington can still make the finals if it beats Melbourne, but anything less will end Ricki Herbert men's season. That should make for a very attacking encounter and given these sides have scored 18 goals against each other in five games, you will expect both goalkeepers to have busy nights.
The Phoenix have called up Joe Marston Medallist Andrew Durante into the squad, while Shane Smeltz, who has already scored three times against Melbourne this year, will be hoping to secure the Golden Boot, holding a one goal lead over Allsopp heading into this match.
Melbourne Victory Squad 1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (Captain), 3.Michael THWAITE, 5.Sebastian RYALL, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Jose Luis LOPEZ, 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 22.Nick WARD *One to be omitted.
In. Matthew KEMP (return from suspension). Out. Nil. Unavailable. Nil.
Wellington Phoenix Squad 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Jeremy CHRISTIE, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. Karl DODD, 7. Leo BERTOS, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 15. Adam KWASNIK, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Glen MOSS (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE, 23. Costa BARBAROUSES, 25. Manny MUSCAT.
In. 22. Andrew DURANTE (return from injury).
Out. 6. Tim BROWN (suspended - 1 week).
Unavailable. 13. Troy HEARFIELD (suspended - 1 week), 17. Vince LIA (knee - season).