When third plays sixth, it's not usually difficult to settle on a favourite and while the Phoenix will be at shorter odds, there's more than just a nagging doubt, triggered by their recent form. From the pre-Covid days when it seemed no team could resist the attacking onslaught of Ulises Dávila, Gary Hooper, David Ball and the ridiculously talented Libby Cacace, the Phoenix have emerged from lockdown a few notches below where they were.
Wellington have won only one of their six matches since the season resumed, collecting just five of an available 18 points. They certainly haven't stormed into the playoffs, despite achieving their highest table position (third), and second-highest points tally (41) since the A-League reverted to ten teams in 2011/12.
The fug they've found themselves in is totally understandable. The players and coaching staff jetted out of Wellington nine weeks ago, spent a fortnight in quarantine, and have lived out of suitcases ever since. Escaping from the daily grind has been impossible and spending so much time away from home comforts and loved ones has taken its toll.
But the finish line is now in sight. The Phoenix are two matches from their first grand final and three wins from a maiden championship. What's happened up to this point is unimportant; all that matters now is to win, then win again, then win once more.
Perth haven't exactly flown into the finals themselves. Having spent the first two months of the year in the top three, the Glory have lost six of their last nine matches, including four of the last five, clinging on to the sixth and last finals spot by a solitary point.
In a hammer blow to their chances, Spanish midfielder Diego Castro elected not to return for the post-Covid finale to the season, robbing Perth of their main source of both creativity and inspiration. A knee injury to Socceroo Chris Ikonomidis in February has also shorn Perth of one of their most exciting attacking talents.
Despite that, any team with Bruno Fornaroli leading the line can't be discounted. The Uruguayan marksman boasts one of the best strike rates in A-League history and doesn't need a second invitation when facing Wellington, having scored nine times in 11 meetings. Combative midfielder Neil Kilkenny has also been a standout, with goalkeeper Liam Reddy, now the veteran of 305 A-League matches, providing a solid last line of defence.
But the Phoenix will rightfully believe they can win the game. If they get close to replicating the performances they produced in February and March, the likes of Dávila, Ball, Reno Piscopo and Callum McCowatt have more than enough attacking ability to put Perth away. With inspirational skipper Steven Taylor marshalling the back four, there'll be no easy passage for Perth into the Wellington penalty area, while Matti Steinmann and Cam Devlin are well up for the midfield battle.
Wellington's reward for victory would be a semifinal on Wednesday evening against Melbourne City, one of the more impressive post-Covid outfits. Minor premiers Sydney FC would then face the winner of tomorrow's clash between Brisbane Roar and Western United, with the grand final scheduled for next Sunday.