A-League preview: Wellington Phoenix v Brisbane Roar

Wellington Phoenix and Brisbane Roar will meet in Round 1 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Westpac Stadium on Sunday October 13 at 5:00pm NZT (3:00pm AEDT).

Boxall, Sigmund, Caira, Adams
Muscat, Lia, Hernandez
 Huysegems, Cunningham, Ifill

Franjic, Smith, North, Stefanutto
Ferreira, Brattan, Miller
Henrique, Berisha, Broich


Played: 20, Wins: Phoenix 2, Roar 12, Draws: 6

Previous encounter:

Roar 2-0 Phoenix, February 17, 2013

Past five matches:

Phoenix: LDWWW


The Game

Brisbane are the form team based on pre-season results against A-League opposition, having beaten Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory, Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Heart, as well as brushing aside any semi-professional or amateur outfits they have encountered. And despite being away from home in Round 1, they should be equipped to get the better of a Phoenix team who are very much an unknown quantity heading into their first full season without Ricki Herbert at the helm. Ernie Merrick is now the man in charge at the Cake Tin, and all eyes will be on the Scottish-born Australian to see if he can recreate the success which brought two championships to Melbourne Victory.

The big issue

Phoenix – As has been the case throughout their brief history, Wellington are set to be hurt by the New Zealand national team's international obligations. Glen Moss, Andrew Durante, Leo Bertos and Jeremy Brockie will all be away with the All Whites for the opening game of the season, while youngster Alex Rufer is on New Zealand Under-17 duty. Lewis Italiano [ankle] and Louis Fenton [shoulder] are injured, but Merrick will at least new signing Kenny Cunningham available, after he was overlooked by Costa Rica. The signing of four local players, two on month-long injury replacement deals, and two more for just one week, demonstrates the extent of the Phoenix's lack of depth going into 2013-14.

Roar – Mike Mulvey has had a full pre-season in charge of the club and will expect results from his talented squad quickly. Matt McKay is away with the Socceroos, meaning new signing Liam Miller, Thomas Broich and Luke Brattan are likely to start in a midfield three, with Besart Berisha supplying the goals up front. The match against a weakened Phoenix, still finding their feet under Merrick, represents a good opportunity for Roar to make a statement of intent to the rest of the competition's would-be title contenders.

The game breaker: Carlos Hernandez. Everyone is waiting to see if the mercurial playmaker has the ambition and discipline to produce his best form in a yellow and black shirt after previously firing Victory to two titles. Still only 31, he will need to produce a vintage performance if the undermanned hosts are to keep in-form Brisbane at bay and get Merrick's tenure off to a winning start.

Prediction: Phoenix 1-3 Roar

We expect Brisbane to have far too much fire power and cohesion for the Phoenix this weekend. Not only do the Roar, man for man, have a considerably stronger first XI than their Kiwi opponents, they have also enjoyed a much more impressive pre-season and have more players available for the game. A comfortable away win looks a certainty - on paper.

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