The Phoenix have their stars back from international duty, but the hosts will still start as underdogs against a Brisbane Roar side in white-hot form
|By WILLIAM VALLELY
Bertos, Durante, Sigmund, Lochhead
Ifill, Muscat, Smith, FentonHuysegems, Brockie
Hingert, Smith, Jurman, Stefanutto
Murdocca, Paartalu, NicholsHalloran, Berisha, Broich
Brisbane make the trans-Tasman trip full of confidence after an impressive performance against Melbourne Victory last Saturday, but Rado Vidosic's side will be aware of the dangers posed by Wellington in front of a strong home record.
Phoenix host the Roar on Sunday after salvaging a point against Melbourne Heart last Sunday with a side that was almost unrecognisable from the one that took the field against Sydney FC in Week 1.
New Zealand's World Cup qualifiersaccounted for goalkeepers Mark Paston and Glen Moss, defenders Tony Lochhead and Ben Sigmund, midfielder Leo Bertos, and striker Jeremy Brockie.
All six are expected to play some part against Brisbane in a fixture that will go some way to shaping the landscape at the top of the A-League table.
Both sides' attacking capabilities will make for an exciting game, but will Phoenix's defence be able to keep the likes of Thomas Broich and Besart Berisha at bay?
And the potential return of tricky winger Henrique from a heel injury sustained in a pre-season game could cause more headaches for Ricki Herbert's men. The Brazilian is likely to make his return from the bench, however.
Brisbane - under the guidance of Vidosic - look more compact defensively than the side that won the title last season, making them a difficult prospect to break down playing either home or away.
Vidosic's tactics and formation seem set up for success against combative sides like Wellington, but if the Phoenix can exploit Brisbane's right-hand side - weakened by Ivan Franjic's abdominal strain - they are a good chance to cause an upset.
Franjic's abdominal strain is expected to keep him out for a week, as is James Meyer's groin injury.
For the Phoenix, Benjamin Totori also returns from international duty, while Dani Sanchez is still five weeks away from a competitive return with a knee-injury.