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A-League Rev-Up: Flying Phoenix to exploit Victory wobble

08:55 GMT+4 27/12/2018
Wellington Phoenix
The Kiwis pose a significant test for a Victory side likely to be missing their superstar

Christmas has come and gone but the A-League matches are on thick and fast during the festive period.

Melbourne Victory face a formidable home fixture against Wellington Phoenix - a match that looked like an easy win a few weeks ago.

Brisbane Roar head down to play an improving Sydney FC with their coach John Aloisi hanging by a thread.

And Newcastle Jets, boosted by Roy O'Donovan's return last week, look to continue their rise with a match at home versus Adelaide United.

Who would bother with the MCG's boring cricket when you have a round of football this enticing?

Phoenix rise from ashes to challenge wobbly Victory

A few weeks back, a fixture between Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park was only ever going to have one winner - and that was Kevin Muscat's side by a number of goals.

But things change quite quickly in football and you can expect Mark Rudan's Phoenix to take it right up to Victory on Friday night.

After going five games without the win, Wellington have turned their season around with three victories on the trot against Sydney FC, Central Coast and Brisbane Roar.

It appears Rudan's back five and counter attacking football is troubling opposition sides, in a similar way to have Tony Popovic's three central defenders at Perth have provided the foundation to lead the league.

The Nix have found a creative hub in teenage star Sarpreet Singh, while Roy Krishna's runs in behind must be a nightmare for defenders to constantly deal with.

You can expect the Kiwis to get their chances against Melbourne Victory's injury hit defence that doesn't appear to be all that impressive at the moment.

Minus German centre half Georg Niedermeier, Victory conceded a late equaliser against derby rivals Melbourne City last weekend, and also shipped two goals against 10-man Brisbane Roar the match before.

It also appears likely that marquee star Keisuke Honda will be absent from the starting side and possibly the entire squad due to a minor back issue.

The pieces of the puzzle are falling nicely into place for the Phoenix to announce themselves as title contenders.

Will they sink or swim?

Familiar story for John Aloisi

John Aloisi will always be the hero whose ice-cool penalty got the Socceroos back into the World Cup after 34 years.

However his coaching career is shaping not be remembered as fondly and it could be the end of the road for the 42-year-old if things don't improve quickly at Brisbane Roar.

This campaign at Roar is reminiscent of the 2013 season he was sacked in while coaching Melbourne Heart - with a team of quality players performing much below their capabilities.

Surely a second coaching disaster in five years would spell the end of Aloisi's A-League management career or at least critically wound it for a number of years.

It must be said that it hasn't all been Aloisi's fault - constant injuries to players such as Brett Holman, Adam Taggart and Stefan Mauk - plus a suspension to playmaker Eric Bautheac haven't allowed Roar any continuity, particularly in the attacking third.

Regardless of the fitness hassles, one win in nine matches is simply not good enough and if there is no rapid improvement, Aloisi will likely find himself on the chopping block.

While a defeat against Sydney FC might not be enough to see the Roar's owners Bakries take action, poor results in their next matches against Newcastle, Perth and Melbourne City could spell the end.

Roy O'Donovan's return allows the Jets to take off

The attacking style of football Newcastle became famous for under Ernie Merrick last season has not changed this campaign, but the lack of goals and results has been damning.

It's no coincidence that the profligacy in the penalty box has come during the suspension of star striker Roy O'Donovan.

The goalscoring responsibilities have fallen on the team's attacking midfielders and wingers such as Ronnie Vargas, Dimi Petratos, Jason Hoffman and Jair.

Now with O'Donovan back occupying both central defenders, this allows the aforementioned players to start focusing on their attacking roles and not be relied upon for goals as much.

Marco Kurz's defensive minded Adelaide United will provide a test on Sunday, but expect to see the best of Newcastle Jets over the coming weeks and into the new year.