Sydney FC coach: Wellington Phoenix a top four team

Phoenix midfielder Vince Lia attempts an innovtative new football strategy against Perth. Photo / Getty
Phoenix midfielder Vince Lia attempts an innovtative new football strategy against Perth. Photo / Getty

Sydney FC hope to build on their sensational A-League start by overthrowing a Wellington outfit weary from a long-haul trip to Perth.

The league-leading Sky Blues head to New Zealand on Sunday with eight goals, six points and two clean sheets under their belts following emphatic 4-0 defeats of Western Sydney and Central Coast.

The Phoenix, meanwhile, sit last with none of the above after losses to Melbourne City and the Glory.

Coach Graham Arnold expected Ernie Merrick's side would still be suffering from last weekend's tiring flight to Western Australia.

On the flipside, he said Sydney had already recovered from Wednesday night's 3-0 FFA Cup semi-final triumph over Canberra Olympic.

"Wellington have had a much tougher travel routine than us ... we're fit and healthy, and we're going across to Wellington to win," Arnold said.

Not that Arnold expected a walk in the park given Phoenix's attacking firepower can finally be put to proper use now several players, including Kosta Barbarouses and Michael McGlinchey, have recuperated from international duty.

"There's no way that Wellington team is a bottom-of-the-table team. They're a top-four team," he said.

"They were crippled a bit by international weekend where they lost four or five players who had to be away with the New Zealand national team.

"They're all back now so it's going to be a real tough test for us.

"But we're in good shape and I expect us to win."

To do so, the Sky Blues will field a full-strength XI.

After sitting out the FFA Cup match, centre-back Alex Wilkinson (ankle) and left-back Michael Zullo (illness) will return to the starting line-up, while John Brillante and Brandon O'Neill will resume their midfield partnership at the expense of Milos Dimitrijevic, who used Wednesday's rare start to score a cracking free-kick against Olympic.

Milos Ninkovic will also reclaim his No.10 spot as Arnold eases Alex Brosque back after the captain completed his first full 90 minutes since February.

Bernie Ibini has pulled up from his dream one-goal comeback with only muscle soreness, though a decision is yet to be made on whether the powerful winger will travel.

"It's just a decision that myself and the medical staff have to make in the welfare of Bernie, if it's a wise thing with only a short turnaround," Arnold said.

"But I've got good options again this week.

"Our attack is lethal and they'll only get better and better."

- AAP

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