Wellington have the chance to avenge their heartbreaking preliminary final loss to Sydney FC in the 2009-10 season, with the Sky Blues controversially winning that match
Muscat, Durante, Sigmund, Lochhead
Bertos, Lia, Brown, Sanchez
Grant, Beauchamp, Bosschaart, Jamieson
Emerton, McFlynn, Carle, Kisel
The A-League finals start on Friday in Wellington, with a large crowd expected to turn out at the Westpac Stadium for the first elimination final between the Phoenix and Sydney FC.
Everything is there to win or lose.
Wellington have lost their past two matches, which is not great preparation heading into a must-win fixture. A 2-1 loss to minor premiers Central Coast at home last Sunday and a 3-0 defeat to Melbourne Victory in the penultimate week of the regular season ensured Wellington finished in fourth place on the table.
Against the Mariners, defensive errors proved costly, with the Phoenix needing to win by three or more goals to climb into third ahead of Perth Glory.
With the Mariners needing a win to sew up the Premiers Plate, however, they were unlikely to let that game slip from their grasp.
Wellington showed great fight against the Mariners and created several inviting chances at goal, but could not capitalize. They should have been at least 1-0 at half-time, with the highlight of the match a long-range Leo Bertos free-kick which could have landed the Phoenix a point at the end.
Wellington have been given added incentive heading into this match, with club icon Tim Brown announcing his retirement at the end of the season. The 31-year-old is looking to do his Masters degree in management in England. After 107 games for the Phoenix, Friday's match could well be his last.
Tony Lochhead has had an MRI scan for a knee complaint, which had led to his substitution against the Mariners.
The scan showed no structural damage, however, and he is expected to play this Friday.
Phoenix striker Paul Ifill was included in the PFA's team of the season, while captain Andrew Durnate was named on the bench in recognition for their quality campaigns.
Sydney FC head across to Wellington full of hope after their outstanding win over Newcastle last Sunday.
In one of the best games of the season, Sydney defeated Newcastle 3-2, after Bruno Cazarine opening the scoring for the Sky Blues with an impressive header and Joel Chianese adding a brace. Chianese had his best game for Sydney, imposing himself on the match from the start.
His two goals showed why he has been preferred to Mark Bridge since his elevation from the youth team. Chianese's first goal took a slight deflection but was going in regardless, and his second showed excellent close control - perhaps courtesy of his futsal days.
With the Jets scoring twice, however, Sydney will need to stop the defensive lapses which have hurt them so often this season. It has been some time since goalkeeper Liam Reddy was part of that defence after losing his No.1 spot to Ivan Necevski, and the former Brisbane shot-stopper will not be part of the squad at all on Friday, having been sent home for being drunk on the flight over the Tasman.
The Sky Blues have not beaten the Phoenix this season and will have to be wary of Ifill, who has scored in each match between the two teams in 2011-12. Cazarine has also struck in two of the clashes for Sydney.
Wellington will take into account that they have beaten Sydney 2-1 and 4-2 at home and 1-0 away, drawing confidence from their upper hand over the Sky Blues this campaign.
||DID YOU KNOW?|
- Terry McFlynn will make his 150th A-League appearance if he takes to the pitch against Wellington. He will be the sixth player in the history of the competition to do so.
- Expect the game to be over in 90 minutes, as there has only ever been one draw in 16 matches between the two clubs.
- Wellington have won three in a row against Sydney.
- The Phoenix have scored the least amount of goals this season of any of the top-six sides.
- Sydney won the only ever finals match between the two clubs - 4-2 in the preliminary final of 2009-10.