Phoenix Crippled By Injuries

www.news.com.au/Getty Images/Mark Nolan
Marcelo Carrusca will lead Adelaide's attack in Wellington. www.news.com.au/Getty Images/Mark Nolan

Wellington Phoenix v Adelaide United

Westpac Stadium

Sunday March 30 at 12pm (AEST)

Head-to-head:
Played: 21, Wins: Phoenix 5, Adelaide 10, Draws: 6

Previous encounter:
Adelaide 5-1 Phoenix, February 27 2014

Form:
Past five matches:
Phoenix: LDDLW
Adelaide: WDLWL

The Game:
Wellington can still dream about playing finals but their injury-hit squad desperately need to claim an upset win over an Adelaide side looking too all-but guarantee their place in the top six. With so many season-ending injuries and attacking midfielder Carlos Hernandez still at least a week away, this appears to be beyond Ernie Merrick's men. Adelaide have a decent record at Westpac Stadium and thrashed the Phoenix 5-1 when the teams met at Hindmarsh in February. Josep Gombau will be hoping to see his side take their form to another level heading into the finals, with the Reds two points clear of seventh-placed Sydney and six ahead of the Phoenix.

The big issue:
Phoenix – can Wellington overcome injuries which have crippled their season? Merrick's men are winless in four and were thrashed 5-0 by the Newcastle Jets last time out. The run that saw them lose just once in eight matches in late December to early February seems a long time ago. Hernandez's absence with a quad injury is a blow, while the likes of Paul Ifill, Leo Bertos, Reece Caira and Louis Fenton are still sidelined. There is some relief – defender Ben Sigmund returns from suspension.

Adelaide – can the Reds win at Westpac Stadium for the first time since November 2007? Paul Agostino and Lucas Pantelis were on the scoresheet for Adelaide on that day. In five trips to the venue, that is the Reds' only win – with the other four matches finishing in draws. They have lost in New Zealand three times, but those defeats were either in Auckland or Christchurch.

The game breaker:
Fabio Ferreira – the impressive Portuguese winger could be a real game breaker for Adelaide come the finals. He scored against Sydney and the last time the Reds met the Phoenix, and he is sure to enjoy taking on a Wellington side who conceded five against the Jets. Ferreira's pace and directness makes him a regular threat to opposition teams and if Adelaide can continue to find him, particularly in one-on-one situations with his defender, he will lead them to three points.

Prediction: Phoenix 1-3 Adelaide
It will take a special performance for Wellington to get anything out of this encounter, even with it being played at Westpac Stadium. Gombau has all the attacking quality he needs in the likes of Ferreira, Marcelo Carrusca, Bruce Djite and Cirio. Wellington's injuries have taken a huge toll late in the campaign and their slim hopes of making the finals should just about be ended on Sunday.

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