Making the A-League's top six is one thing; staying there is another.

Having spent the majority of the first half of the 2016/17 campaign on the lower rungs of the ladder, the Wellington Phoenix have clawed their way into the playoff positions with eleven games to go in the regular season.

But as they prepare to face defending champions Adelaide United away tonight, co-coach Des Buckingham is well aware the job isn't anywhere near done.

"We had the opportunity to go fourth last weekend and we missed that," he said.


"We've got the opportunity now to put some daylight between us and the teams below us, which is something that seven weeks ago not many would have seen. We'll take one game at a time as we do, but there's a real opportunity for us to now start stretching away and cement our position in this top six."

Despite a hectic recent schedule of three games in eight days, Buckingham and co-coach Chris Greenacre have an almost full complement of players to choose from.

Vince Lia limped off early in the second half of last weekend's loss to Brisbane Roar with a corked calf, but is available to play, while his defensive midfield partner Alex Rodriguez has been given a lighter workload this week after playing all but ninety seconds of the last three matches.

There will be one forced change though, with Italian centre-back Marco Rossi collecting his fifth yellow card of the season against Brisbane, triggering a one-game ban. Versatile defender Ryan Lowry seems likely to earn just a second A-League start in his place while fellow Australian centre-back Dylan Fox has also travelled as part of an extended 17-man squad.

Adelaide's title defence is all but over and would evaporate completely with a loss to the Phoenix. They have also been hit by the sudden departure of Spanish striker Sergi Guardiola who left the club during the week.

However, four of Adelaide's meagre haul of ten points this season have come against the Phoenix and they were 2-0 winners the last time the two met at Coopers Stadium in early December. That result proved to be the last straw for former Wellington coach Ernie Merrick who resigned immediately following the game.

Despite their table position and mediocre season to date, Buckingham still considers the Reds a dangerous opponent.

"They've got some very similar players to (those that) won them the championship last year and for whatever reason it hasn't quite clicked for them. We need to make sure we're organised so we're not on the wrong end of a bad result," he said.