What a treat. It’s the second top-two clash in the space of a week, as Hyundai A-League leaders Perth Glory host second-placed Wellington Phoenix. Can Kenny Lowe’s men keep hold of first or will the Nix reach the summit? Wherever you are, don’t miss this one.
nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-Off: 6:30 PM (Local) (9:30 PM AEDT)
Perth Glory FC squad: 1.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 4.Riley WOODCOCK, 5.Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 6.Dino DJULBIC, 8.Ruben ZADKOVICH, 9.Andy KEOGH, 10.Nebojsa MARINKOVIC, 11.Richard GARCIA, 14.Chris Harold, 15.Jamie MACLAREN, 16.Sidnei SCIOLA, 18.Jack DUNCAN (gk), 19.Josh RISDON, 20.Daniel DE SILVA, 21.Scott JAMIESON, 23.Michael THWAITE (c), 27.Dragan PALJIC, 28.Denis KRAMAR
***two to be omitted***
Ins: 4.Riley WOODCOCK (promoted), 11.Richard GARCIA (promoted), 16.Sidnei SCIOLA (promoted)
Outs: 17.Mitch NICHOLS (suspended – 1 week)
Unavailable: 7.Youssouf HERSI (hamstring – season), 13.Diogo FEREIRA (hip – 2 weeks)
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Glen MOSS (GK), 2.Manny MUSCAT, 3.Joel GRIFFITHS, 4.Roly BONEVACIA, 5.Michael BOXALL, 10.Michael McGLINCHEY, 13.Albert RIERA, 14.Alex RUFER, 15.Jason HICKS, 16.Louis FENTON, 17.Vince LIA, 18.Ben SIGMUND, 19.Tom DOYLE, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (GK), 21.Roy KRISHNA, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 29.Joel STEVENS
***one to be omitted***
Ins: 2.Manny MUSCAT (returns from suspension), 14.Alex RUFER (promoted), 29.Joel STEVENS (promoted)
Outs: 8.Alex RODRIGUEZ (hamstring – 1 week), 9.Nathan BURNS (hip – 1 week)
Unavailable: 6.Josh BRINDELL-SOUTH (shoulder – 4 weeks), 7.Kenny CUNNINGHAM (hamstring – 2 weeks), 11.Kwabena APPIAH (calf – 1 week), 12.Tyler BOYD (ankle – 2 weeks), 23.Matthew Ridenton (knee – 2 weeks)
TV Broadcast: Live and exclusive coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 9.30pm (AEDT)
Radio Broadcast: Online/ABC Radio Mobile phone app.
Referee: Chris Beath
Assistant Referee 1: Mathew Cheeseman
Assistant Referee 2: Josh Mannella
Fourth Official: Adam Fielding
You’d have been able to get some tasty odds on Perth Glory versus Wellington Phoenix in Round 21 being a showdown between the two front-runners.
The Nix had shown some promise in their first season under Ernie Merrick, while Kenny Lowe’s priority this season was seemingly to drag Perth away from the foot of the table and perhaps flirt with a finals finish.
Those modest ambitions were thrown out of the window long ago in both Western Australian and New Zealand, where supporters are now expecting big things from their teams in the 2014-15 run-in and playoffs.
And why not?
Glory have shown themselves to be a tough, physical outfit, hard to break down and with an eye for a goal. The Phoenix are similarly rugged at the back, with plenty of polish in midfield and some dangerous customers up front.
As the home side and the incumbents at the top, Perth will be narrow favourites for this blockbuster showdown, but it could go either way.
The absence of the former Sunderland youth team player means Albert Riera could be in for a tough time up against the Glory’s physical, talented midfield, which includes tricky Serbian Nebojsa Marinkovic and towering holding player Rostyn Griffiths.
With just three points separating the top five, a draw or a Phoenix win will throw the race for the premiership wide open.
OPTA DATA STATS
– Perth haven’t tasted defeat in five A-League matches against Wellington.
– The Nix last failed to score against Glory in January 2012 (including playoffs), nine meetings ago.
– Wellington are one of two sides yet to draw away from home (W5 L5, the same record as Adelaide).
ROUTE TO GOAL
Perth’s achievement in remaining first looks all the more impressive when you consider the fact they’re the lowest scoring team of the top five with 33 goals. Sydney FC are next on 35, while Melbourne Victory are down in fifth, three points off top spot despite leading the way with 40 goals.
Andy Keogh broke his recent by scoring away to Victory last weekend, but other Perth players, in particular young Australian forwards Chris Harold and Jamie Maclaren, need to weigh in if Lowe’s side are to finish strongly.
Wellington’s chief marksman Nathan Burns was on target against Adelaide last time out but it was a newcomer, veteran Joel Griffiths, who broke the deadlock in that one.
At 35 he isn’t getting any younger, but Griffiths knows where the goal is and could help Burns shoulder the goal-scoring burden during the run-in, particularly as Roy Krishna seems to have misplaced his shooting boots.
With Burns set to miss this one due to a hip injury, former Jet Griffiths could well earn a start at nib Stadium.
WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?
Perth Glory. They ran a cheeky yarn on their site called 13 reasons why Perth is better than Wellington. It spawned a bit of bantz across the two countries.
Perth Glory: DDDDL
Perth have drawn four matches in succession, 1-1 away to Melbourne Victory, 2-2 at home to Brisbane Roar, 0-0 away to Melbourne City and 1-1 away to Adelaide United. Before that they lost 3-1 at home to Sydney FC.
Wellington Phoenix: WWDDL
The Phoenix have won their last two, beating Adelaide United 2-0 at home and Melbourne Victory 3-2 away. Before that they drew 2-2 with the Newcastle Jets and 0-0 with Melbourne City, both of those results coming at home.
DID YOU KNOW?
– Nathan Burns has been involved in 15 goals for Phoenix this season (12 goals, three assists), no player has managed more.
Perth Glory 2-0 Wellington Phoenix
Without a win since way back on January 2, it’s remarkable Perth are still top of the pile.
They’re surely due a convincing performance in front of their own fans to reassert themselves as Premiership favourites.
More dropped points in the form of another draw or even a loss and the wheels could be threatening to come off at just the wrong time.