The Wanderers are on the road in another country. Again! And this time Popa's travel weary Asian Kings - fresh from the Club World Cup in Morocco - face the form team of the Hyundai A-League in Wellington. A big Christmas crowd is tipped for this crackerjack match-up.
TV Broadcast: Live and exclusive coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 5.00pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 3 (New Zealand)
Radio Broadcast: Online / ABC Radio Mobile phone app, Radio Sport Wellington (93.7FM) and online at Radio Sport and via the i-Heart radio app.
Just when it seemed Western Sydney could finally put their incredibly arduous travel schedule behind them, they have to pack their well-worn passports and board another international flight. Waiting in Wellington, the high-flying Phoenix will look to heap further misery on the beleaguered ACL Champions.
Few could have predicted how poor a start Tony Popovic’s side would endure to this season after the consistency and success of their first two A-League campaigns. Almost as worrying as the nine winless matches is their goalscoring tally; just six goals in thirteen-and-a-half hours of A-League football is an extremely meagre return.
By contrast, the Phoenix are in a rich (and rarely-seen) vein of goalscoring form, finding the net 21 times in 11 matches. With Nathan Burns in the lead role and a support cast of Roy Krishna, Michael McGlinchey and Roly Bonevacia, Wellington are high on confidence as 2015 approaches.
Opta Data stats
The Wellington Phoenix are unbeaten in their last four Hyundai A-League matches (three wins and a draw) while WSW are the only side yet to win a game this season, with three draws and six losses so far.
As mentioned above, WSW are also the league’s lowest goalscorers and have failed to find the net in their last two outings. The Phoenix though, have kept just one clean sheet in their last ten home matches, but that was against Western Sydney in round five this season.
ROUTE TO GOAL
If the Phoenix have a mantra at the moment, it’s “Get the ball to Burns”. Never has a striker been so potent this early in an A-League season, so expect the home side to look to use him in the attacking third as often as possible. Furthermore, his form has also taken the focus away from his team-mates who have benefited from the majority of the defensive focus being on the Australian hotshot and not them. The absence of talismanic WSW skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley will only add to their problems.
By contrast, the visitors would take a goal any way it might come at present, but it’s not as though they’re short of attacking weaponry. Tomi Juric has done enough to earn a Socceroos place for the Asian Cup, and in Vitor Saba and Nikita Rukavytsya there certainly exists goal-scoring potential.