The top two go head-to-head in a blockbuster Easter Sunday Hyundai A-League clash – what more can be said? This will have a big say on the destination of the Premiers’ Plate, so strap yourself in for a doozy.
Wellington Phoenix currently holds a one-point advantage but Melbourne Victory have a game in hand and head across the ditch in solid form.
We look ahead to three crucial match-ups which will play a major role in determining which side comes out on top in what should be another Hyundai A-League classic.
Phoenix striker Nathan Burns v Victory defender Matthieu Delpierre
Fresh from starring for the Socceroos in Europe, Burns is back for Wellington and just in the nick of time.
Against Sydney FC last weekend Phoenix lacked that attacking flair and pace in the front third which Burns provides.
It’s not just the goals Burns has provided this season which has made him a major weapon for the Kiwi side.
His work-rate, speed around the box and ability to create opportunities for team-mates like Roy Krishna and Michael McGlinchey have been vital to Phoenix’s success.
With top spot on the line there is even more motivation for the 26-year-old to keep scoring and sink Victory, as he also looks to chase down Marc Janko for the Hyundai A-League’s golden-boot.
If anyone can stop Burns in his current form it’s Delpierre. But will the long flight from Europe affect Burns’ ability to whiz around the front third with his customary pace?
The Frenchman is more than a month into his return after a long injury lay-off and has performed stronger with each outing.
He is the most experienced of a young Victory back-four and there’s no doubt Kevin Muscat’s side has a greater steel about them when he’s on the park.
So whose attributes will win out in a vital showdown? Will Burns’ pace and trickery prove too hot to handle or can Delpierre use all his guile and physical power to come out on top?
Phoenix playmaker Roly Bonevacia v Victory midfielder Carl Valeri
What a battle this promises to be between one of the finds of the season and a Socceroos stalwart.
Bonevacia has taken the competition by storm in his first year at Wellington, a real driving force in Ernie Merrick’s attack-minded outfit.
Along with Burns the Dutchman has provided a real X-factor to Phoenix’s play, whether it be with a clinical forward pass or a powerful surge from midfield.
But if anyone has the ability to put the brakes on his influence on a match then Valeri is your man.
The 30-year-old has been a vital component in Victory’s midfield and provides valuable protection to the back four.
His impressive work can often go unnoticed, with the side possessing a lethal attacking quartet but make no mistake he is paramount to their success.
You can bet whenever Bonevacia gets the ball on Sunday, Valeri will be the one nipping at his heels trying to pinch possession.
This contrast of style should provide plenty of entertainment for the fans but also go some way to deciding which side will get the upper-hand.
Phoenix defender Andrew Durante v Victory striker Besart Berisha
Buckle up for what should be an explosive match-up between two of the Hyundai A-League’s more fiery competitors.
The Phoenix skipper is – and has been – one of the competition’s premier defenders for a number of years.
And this season “Dura” has been fantastic. A rock. A leader. A star.
He is ack to the form he showed in helping the Jets to the title back in 2008 and relishes taking on the competition’s best strikers and that’s what awaits on Sunday.
Berisha might not be as prolific as he would have wanted this season but he still has 11 goals and is pivotal to Victory’s hopes both with and without the ball.
His all-action pressing game means Victory can defend from the front, often causing turnovers which allows them to hit teams on transition.
You can be sure these two out-and-out winners will do all they can to get over the top of one another throughout what should be a physical 90 minutes.
We can’t wait to see which way this one goes.