Sydney FC’s inexorable charge to the Premiership – and perhaps invincibility – shows no signs of abating but, we ask, could a desperate Wellington Phoenix be a Sky Blue banana skin on Thursday night?
Thursday, 9 February 2017
Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-Off: 7:50PM (Local) (7:50PM (AEDT))
Referee: Kurt Ams
Assistant Referee 1: Scott Edeling
Assistant Referee 2: Andrej Giev
Fourth Official: Ben Abraham
TV Broadcast: Live coverage on Fox Sports 505 from 7.30pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 2 (New Zealand)
Radio Broadcast: ABC Grandstand Digital, Online & via the ABC Radio Mobile App – A-league Live
Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #SYDvWEL
To purchase tickets visit www.aleague.com.au
Sydney FC squad: 1.Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 4.Alex WILKINSON, 5.Jordy BUIJS, 6.Joshua BRILLANTE, 7.Michael ZULLO, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.BOBÔ, 10.Milos NINKOVIC, 11.Bernie IBINI, 12.Aaron CALVER, 14.Alex BROSQUE (c), 17.David CARNEY, 18.Matt SIMON, 19.George BLACKWOOD, 20.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 21.Filip HOLOSKO, 23.Rhyan GRANT
**one to be omitted**
Ins: 7.Michael ZULLO (returns from suspension), 12.Aaron CALVER (promoted), 19.George BLACKWOOD (promoted)
Outs: 13.Brandon O’NEILL (suspended – 1 match), 25.George TIMOTHEOU (return to youth squad)
Unavailable: 22.Seb RYALL (hamstring – indefinite)
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Glen MOSS (gk), 2.Jacob TRATT, 4.Roly BONEVACIA, 5.Ryan LOWRY, 6.Dylan FOX, 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Alex RODRIGUEZ, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Michael McGLNCHEY, 11.Hamish WATSON, 12.Adam PARKHOUSE, 13.Marco ROSSI, 17.Vince LIA, 19.Tom DOYLE, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (gk), 21.Roy KRISHNA, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.Matthew RIDENTON
**two to be omitted**
Ins: 6.Dylan FOX (promoted), 11.Hamish WATSON (returns from injury), 12.Adam PARKHOUSE (promoted)
Outs: 99.Shane SMELTZ (suspended – 1 match)
The Sky Blues are nine points clear at the top of the league, possess a concrete defence lead by a superb keeper, and are hungry as to break a stack of records in the 2016/17 Season.
In contrast, Phoenix has been frustratingly inconsistent, struggle to score goals and have striker Shane Smeltz missing through suspension.
It all points to what should be a stroll for the home side, right?
Well, as we know, nothing is certain in the Hyundai A-League.
The Sky Blues are without star midfielder Brandon O’Neill through suspension, although Milos Dimitrijevic is a more-than-handy replacement.
Left-back Michael Zullo will also return to the starting XI after serving his one-game ban last weekend.
It will be interesting to see how the Allianz surface looks given it endured a full weekend of rugby.
Last time out, Phoenix was beaten 3-1 at home by the Wanderers to lose ground in the race for the top six.
While they are only two points out in eighth spot, they will need to start picking up points more regularly if they are serious about playing finals.
They do have a decent recent record at Allianz as well, unbeaten in their last three trips to play the Sky Blues, including two wins.
But right now, who'd back Sydney FC to lose?
ROUTE TO GOAL
The goals have been flowing all season for the Sky Blues.
Only an exceptional performance from Roar gloveman Michael Theo stopped them last weekend but they rarely draw a blank twice.
Sydney’s attacking quartet of Bobo, Brosque, Ninkovic and Holosko have rightly received plenty of plaudits all season but there are other factors to the Sky Blues’ success in front of goal.
Fullbacks Zullo and Grant provide excellent width and service down each flank, which allows Ninkovic and Holosko to get in good positions closer to goal.
The pressing of Brillante and O’Neill also allows them to win the ball higher up the pitch, meaning they can be much deadlier in transition.
While the goals have been hard to come by for Wellington this season – 21 in 18 games – they did cause the Sky Blues plenty of issues when they met back in Round 3.
Only a brilliant performance from Danny Vukovic in goals stopped them that day, before Ninkovic won it late on.
Smeltz’s suspension means Phoenix will likely need to re-jig their attack.
Leading-scorer Roy Krishna has been playing out wide in recent weeks and could shift back through the middle, although powerful Hamish Watson is another option to lead the line.
Both McGlinchey and Finkler have started off the bench over the last couple of rounds but love playing the Sky Blues, which might convince Buckingham and Greenacre to use them from the start.
It was tight and dour the last time these two met but expect a far more exciting encounter this time around.
WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK
Filip Holosko. The Sky Blues marquee man (who has six goals in the 2016/17 Season) has vowed to better his goal return from last season, where he scored 10. Will he close the gap by adding to his tally against the Nix?
FORM LINES (last five games)
Sydney FC: WDWWD
Sydney FC 3-1 Wellington Phoenix