The Wellington Phoenix begin their A-League campaign against Adelaide United on Sunday.

We assess their chances of success in 2017/18.

Top gains

Croatian defensive midfielder Goran Paracki has looked very good in pre-season, shielding the back four, making tackles and neatly shifting possession.

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Further forward, former Socceroos international Dario Vidosic has the potential to be one of the most dangerous attacking midfielders in the competition, while new Serbian striker Andrija Kaludjerovic comes with an impressive scoring pedigree.

Scott Galloway, Daniel Mullen and Ali Abbas all arrive with solid A-League experience behind them and will challenge strongly for places in the starting side.

The most significant gain though may be the new coach. Dutchman Darije Kalezic has instilled professionalism and structure since his arrival and with seasoned A-League coach Rado Vidosic (father of Dario) alongside him in the dugout, there's a new-found steel in the Phoenix camp.

Major losses
The Phoenix have lost a significant chunk of last season's midfield with Dutchman Roly Bonevacia, Spaniard Alex Rodriguez and ten-year veteran Vince Lia all departing.

Also gone are All Whites Kosta Barbarouses and Glen Moss to Melbourne Victory and the Newcastle Jets respectively, while Shane Smeltz ended his short-term contract at the end of last season and fullback Jacob Tratt terminated his deal for personal reasons.

Why they'll make the top six
The Phoenix are very much an unknown quantity and while they've lacked quality pre-season opposition with limited opportunities to face other A-League sides, it's also allowed them to fly under the radar.

The coaches have left no stone unturned in their preparation with every on- and off-field minute accounted for in the last few weeks.

In players like Roy Krishna, Michael McGlinchey, Gui Finkler and Andrew Durante, the Phoenix have a solid core of skill and experience, with the new players adding to a solid roster.

And this is the A-League - it's impossible to predict what might happen. After all, last year's champions Sydney FC missed the top six the previous season!

Why they'll miss the top six
As with every season, the A-League has gotten stronger with almost every side boasting a better roster than previous seasons.

The three other sides that missed the finals last season (Adelaide United, Central Coast and Newcastle) have all recruited strongly to arrest their slides and the top teams haven't really been weakened at all.

In what is shaping as the most competitive season in the A-League's 13-year history, the Phoenix will be up against it from day one to keep pace.

Prediction
Sixth. Competition for the finals is fiercer than ever, but the Phoenix definitely have the potential to be in the mix for a playoff spot.

Who are the major contenders for the A-League Championship?
Sydney FC: The defending champions swept all before them in 2016/17 and have retained the core of their squad, while adding exciting Polish attacker Adrian Mierzejewski.
Melbourne Victory: Last season's beaten grand finalists have reacquired the services of All White Kosta Barbarouses and boast the competition's all-time leading scorer in Besart Berisha.

Western Sydney Wanderers: They have undergone a major clean-out and recruited some impressive players, but the unexpected departure of coach Tony Popovic for a job in Turkey may unsettle them.

Adelaide United: After a disappointing 2016/17 season, the Reds have a new coach - German Marco Kurz - and some highly-regarded imports to bolster their stocks.

Perth Glory: Super-Spaniard Diego Castro has been joined by countryman Xavi Torres with the pair set to terrorise opposition defences this season.