Round 14 Match Preview: Wellington Phoenix vs. Brisbane Roar

Adelaide- A
Brisbane play their final game before the mid-season Asian Cup break this weekend away from home against a Wellington side who are playing arguably their best football. The game will be Brisbane’s final competitive game of the first half of the season, with 13 games to play after the Asian Cup break in the league + Champions League. Wellington go into this game on the back of a six game unbeaten run which has propelled them into third on the table, while Brisbane for their part are also starting to put an unbeaten run together with the Roar unbeaten in their last three games.

Brisbane have been a bit up and down in recent weeks, with Tuesday’s frustrating 0-0 stalemate against Sydney a game where neither side offered a lot going forward. So far under Thijssen things have been ok but not great, with a couple of solid away performances –Wanderers, Adelaide-, however there have been reasons to be concerned in the last two games. After giving up three goals in 45 minutes to a side who have struggled to score goals this season,  Tuesday’s performance which saw a better defensive performance, but little going forward and a struggle to keep possession in attack. In fairness, there hasn’t been a lot of time to work on a lot of these things for Thijssen to date, and there figures to be a fair amount of squad turnover from the time this game ends to when they both meet again in early February.

Wellington on the other hand have been sensational this season in their second season under Ernie Merrick and go into this game with a chance of rounding out the first half of the season in second spot on the ladder depending on other results. So far this season, Wellington have typically deployed a 4-3-3 formation, with Michael McGlinchey operating in a ‘false 9’ role dropping off the front line, allowing the wingers Nathan Burns and Roy Krishna to operate as wide strikers. That has allowed Merrick to get the best out of his star recruit Burns, and also get strong showings out of Krishna, who was a bit part player last season. Midfielder Roly Bonevacia has also had a strong season thus far, with the midfielder getting forward wherever possible- particularly on the counter.

Brisbane are likely to name an unchanged starting side for this weekends game, due to a lack of players being available in the squad. If there is to be a change, id say that Adam Sarota would be the most likely to drop to the bench, purely due to fatigue. If that occurs it’s most likely that Petratos drops into the midfield trio, with Brandon Borrello coming into the side on the right side of the front three. Outside of that, it should be business as usual for Brisbane.

Expected Brisbane XI: Young, Bowles, North, Donachie, Brown, Sarota, Brattan, Lustica, Petratos, Henrique, Solórzano.
Substitutes: Acton, Stefanutto, Clut, Danning, Borrello.
Omitted: Brady.

After Wellington went to Adelaide and picked up three points in a fantastic away performance, it’s likely that Wellington will also field an unchanged starting side, especially with key attacking duo Nathan Burns –Asian Cup squad- and Roy Krishna –injured- unavailable. Tyler Boyd’s brace off the bench however makes him the most likely candidate to force his way into the starting side, should Merrick opt to change things.

Expected Wellington XI: Moss, Fenton, Durante, Sigmund, Muscat, Bonevacia, Lia, Riera, McGlinchey, Brockie, Cunningham.
Substitutes: Italiano, Boxall, Doyle, Rodriguez, Boyd.
Omitted: Nil.

Recent form:
Brisbane: DDWLW
Wellington: WWWDW

Top Scorer:
Brisbane: Henrique (7)
Wellington: Burns (10)

This season:
First meeting between these two sides this season, and they’ll play each other two straight games with the first game back after the Asian Cup break for Brisbane also against the Phoenix.

All-time record against Wellington Phoenix:

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Also this weekend, the National Youth League side play their final game before the mid-season break, with a drip to Sydney to take on last seasons Youth League champions. After last weeks loss away to Melbourne City, Brisbane now sit four points behind joint leaders City and Perth- with City travelling to Central Coast while Perth are in Canberra to take on the FFA COE. Kick-off in Sydney’s NYL game is set for 4.00pm at Lambert Park.

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