Wellington Phoenix will go in search of their first victory of the 2013-14 A-League season when they play host to Sydney FC on SundayAnother game, another semi-promising performance, another defeat - it's been the same story for the Phoenix all season and it was no different against the Central Coast Mariners at North Sydney Oval last Thursday. The Kiwis created some good chances early on, but Stein Huysegems missed a penalty and the champions took the points courtesy of Storm Roux's goal. Sydney laboured to a 2-1 win at home to Melbourne Heart last Sunday thanks largely to some individual brilliance from Alessandro Del Piero just before half-time. When the Italian marquee went off injured at the break, Frank Farina's side ceded all the momentum to their visitors and were fortunate to hang on. Those accusations of being a one-man team persist, and not without cause. What can the Sky Blues do to change that perception?
Who to believe about Carlos Hernandez and Wellington Phoenix? The club claim he didn't feature in the 1-0 defeat to the Mariners due to a 'recurrence of a muscle' injury. Other reports indicate there has been a falling out between NZ side and the Costa Rican playmaker over the club dragging their heels on flying his family out to join him. As a major creative force in the final third, Wellington need to keep the playmaker happy and on the field. If he genuinely was injured, they need to get him back and firing.
And how is Sydney skipper Alessandro Del Piero feeling? A back problem forced him off at half-time in the win over Melbourne Heart last time out, and they looked shaky without him, allowing the previously woeful visitors back into the contest. Against a better team, they might have given away the two-goal lead to draw or even lose. Either the physio needs to work his magic or Frank Farina must find a way to make Sydney function without their fragile skipper.
Away from those two spot-light hogs, Serbian defender Nikola Petkovic has been a steady figure at the back for Sydney so far in 2013-14. Despite failing from the spot against the Mariners, Huysegems has been a physical presence and a threat for the Phoenix of late, and will need to be well-marshalled if the visitors are to blunt the Kiwi attack and give themselves a chance of claiming the points.
The New Zealand outfit's win drought may not end this week, but they can take heart from the decent late tilt they had at beating Sydney at Allianz Stadium the last time these teams met, and may be motivated to seek revenge for that dramatic, injury time defeat. If Sydney can get ADP fit and on the field they have a good chance, as always, of causing the opposition problems. But if the Italian is ruled out or forced off early again, Farina and his men could well be in trouble. We're predicting a close one, and the form and availability of key men on both sides could well decide the outcome.
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