Date – Sunday 2 April 2017
Time – 5:00PM (Local) (5:00PM (AEST))
Venue – AAMI Park, Melbourne Australia
Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix will both regain key players from international duty for Sunday’s clash that could be vital for the visitors’ finals ambitions.
Melbourne Victory squad:
2.Jason GERIA, 4.Nick ANSELL, 5.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Marco ROJAS, 8.Besart BERISHA, 10.James TROISI, 11.Mitch AUSTIN, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15.Alan BARO, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.James DONACHIE, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (gk), 21.Carl VALERI (c), 22.Stefan NIGRO, 23.Jai INGHAM, 31.Christian THEOHAROUS, 40.Matt ACTON (gk)
**two to be omitted**
7.Marco ROJAS (returns from international duty), 8.Besart BERISHA (returns from international duty), 10.James TROISI (returns from international duty), 16.Rashid MAHAZI (promoted), 23.Jai INGHAM (returns from international duty)
19.George HOWARD (omitted), 32.Cameron MCGILP (omitted), 35.Josh HOPE (omitted) Unavailable:
Wellington Phoenix squad:
1.Glen MOSS (gk), 4.Roly BONEVACIA, 6.Dylan FOX, 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Alex RODRIGUEZ, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Michael MCGLINCHEY, 11.Hamish WATSON, 12.Adam PARKHOUSE, 13.Marco ROSSI, 17.Vince LIA, 19.Tom DOYLE, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (gk), 21.Roy KRISHNA, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.Matthew RIDENTON, 25.Sarpreet SINGH, 99.Shane SMELTZ
**two to be omitted**
1.Glen MOSS (gk) (returns from international duty), 10.Michael MCGLINCHEY (returns from international duty), 19.Tom DOYLE, 21.Roy KRISHNA (returns from international duty), 22.Andrew DURANTE (returns from international duty), 99.Shane SMELTZ (returns from international duty)
5.Ryan LOWRY (omitted), 24.Logan ROGERSON (omitted), 26.Jack-Henry SINCLAIR (omitted), 30.Oliver SAIL (gk) (omitted)
15.James MCGARRY (glandular fever – 4 weeks), 16.Louis FENTON (groin – season)
The Phoenix remain the only club outside the A-League’s top six with a realistic chance of breaking into the finals with three rounds to go.
Wellington effectively ended Newcastle Jets’ hopes last week with a 5-0 win, with the latter now nine points and 15 goals – in terms of goal difference – behind sixth-placed Western Sydney Wanderers.
If the Phoenix are to reel in the Wanderers and qualify for the finals they can ill afford to lose to Victory at AAMI Park on Sunday.
The worry for Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre’s side is that Wellington have won just one of 15 A-League games away to Victory.
Both teams regain important players this week thanks to culmination of March’s international window.
Victory will have Besart Berisha, James Troisi, Marco Rojas and Jai Ingham back, while Wellington regain the services of six players – Glen Moss, Michael McGlinchey, Tom Doyle, Andrew Durante, Shane Smeltz and Roy Krishna.
While the Phoenix overcame those absentees to beat Newcastle in Round 24, Victory were unable to get past Brisbane Roar, losing 1-0 in Queensland.
That result officially ended the Big V’s tilt at the Premier’s Plate and Kevin Muscat’s team doesn’t have much to play for over the remaining three rounds as they are unlikely to give up their nine-point advantage over Melbourne City and Brisbane.
But Troisi argued this week that Victory must regain momentum after two defeats in three matches as they look to make an impact in the finals.
The Phoenix won the most recent meeting between these two, triumphing 3-0 in January, while Victory won the first fixture 6-1 in October. Melbourne Victory have only ever lost once before at home to Wellington Phoenix (W11 D3); Victory have scored 27 times across their last nine such meetings with Phoenix, an average of three goals per game.
Wellington’s 3-0 win when these teams met in a rescheduled Round 7 fixture in January means that they now hunt for back-to-back wins against the Victory for the first time in A-League history.
Melbourne Victory are undefeated in their last eight Sunday games (W6, D2), their longest streak in A-League history and have kept five clean sheets across those eight fixtures.
Victory were held goalless for the second time in three games last week after also drawing a blank versus Sydney at the start of March. In fact, surprisingly for the A-League’s second best attacking side this season, the Big V have failed to find the back of the net in three of their past six matches.
The return of Berisha, Rojas and Troisi – Victory’s three leading scorers this term – should undoubtedly help against Wellington, with that trio having combined for 36 goals and 21 assists in 2016-17.
Wellington had five different goal-scorers last week, including ex-Victory pair Kosta Barbarouses and Gui Finkler.
Not bad when their two main central strikers – Smeltz and Krishna – were unavailable.Krishna is the Phoenix’s main weapon – the Fiji international has managed 26 goals in 62 A-League matches since the start of the 2014-15 campaign. Kosta Barbarouses.
After a tough start to his second Wellington stint, the 27-year-old is in fine form with three goals and two assists in the Phoenix’s past five games, including one of each versus the Jets.
Melbourne Victory: WWLWL
Wellington Phoenix: LWDLW
PREDICTION – Melbourne Victory 3-1 Wellington Phoenix