WELLINGTON Phoenix face the Brisbane Roar in Round 10 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Westpac Stadium on Saturday at 3.30pm (AEDT).
Played: 19, Wins: Phoenix 2, Roar 12, Draws: 5
Wellington Phoenix 1-2 Brisbane Roar, October 13, 2013
Past five matches:
Wellington midfielder Carlos Hernandez remains in doubt for the clash, after missing their 4-2 loss at Perth last weekend to injury. The Phoenix, though, should be able to cope with fit-again Jeremy Brockie, Pau Ifill, Stein Huysegems and Kenny Cunningham working together in attack last week as they scored two goals away from home. Manny Muscat will return to stabilize the Wellington defence.
Roar's backline should receive a boost, with goalkeeper Michael Theo set to return from a shoulder injury. Shane Stefanutto and Jade North are also potential inclusions to Mike Mulvey's squad, after they sat out the 2-1 win over Adelaide with hamstring and groin injuries respectively.
The big issue:
Wellington - winning. The Phoenix have not won a football game in their past nine attempts. In that period, they have led games for a combined 61 minutes. That is not nearly good enough for a professional team, and in a one-team country. The heat is on Ernie Merrick to turn goals into results, as they have score in all bar two games this season.
Brisbane - preservation. The Roar have got off to a flyer this season, but only a third of the way into the season, coach Mike Mulvey certainly won't be getting ahead of himself. The Roar face top-four sides Newcastle and Sydney in the following fortnight, so the Phoenix trip is preceding a crucial period for the Queensland mob.
The game breaker:
Besart Berisha - has scored in his past three trips to take on the Phoenix in NZ. Continues to give his all for the orange shirt, and will be sure to wreak havoc amongst a weakened Phoenix defence. The Albanian scored a match-winning brace against Adelaide in their win last weekend.
Prediction: Phoenix 1-1 Roar
The past two times Roar have visited NZ they have been unbeaten, although they were fortunate to snare all three points on their most recent trip in October. Prior to that it was a 1-1 draw across the ditch, and it will be tough for Mike Mulvey's men again - even though Wellington have just four points from eight matches this season.