On the face of things, tonight's A-League football clash between Sydney FC and the Wellington Phoenix at Allianz Stadium in Sydney should really only go one way.

Sydney FC are unbeaten through 19 games this season, have effectively sewn up the Premier's Plate and are well on the way to completing the most dominant season in the 12-year history of the competition.

Wellington, on the other hand, are eighth, having picked up just one point from their last available nine and are now locked in a battle to even challenge for the top six, let alone be there when the playoff positions are confirmed in April.

But Phoenix coach Des Buckingham remained bullish ahead of the rare Thursday night encounter.


"We'll be going to attack them. We'll be going for three points. We won't be going there to defend," he said.

The Phoenix will have to do that without Shane Smeltz, who scored his 90th A-League goal from the penalty spot against Western Sydney in New Plymouth on Saturday night, before being sent off. His mandatory one-game suspension will trigger at least one change to the starting lineup.

"We've got Mikey McGlinchey who's been patiently, frustratingly, waiting on the bench," said Buckingham.

"We've still got Roy [Krishna] and Kosta [Barbarouses] and Hamish [Watson] is an option to come in."

Buckingham and co-coach Chris Greenacre may also opt to start Brazilian Gui Finkler for the first time in seven games after the Brazilian replaced Roly Bonevacia early in the second half on Saturday night and provided a more effective link between midfield and attack.

Tonight's clash is the first of three in succession against sides in the A-League's top four, with the Phoenix set to host fourth-placed Melbourne City next Saturday, before a visit to third-placed Brisbane the following weekend.

"If we're serious contenders for playoffs and finishing in that top six, we've got to play the better teams and the ladder suggests those are the better teams at this moment in time," said Buckingham.

"You want to play the best teams and you want to play the better players. That's then a true test of how far we've come in the last nine weeks."

Sydney's defence has been the cornerstone of their dominant season, with the Sky Blues conceding just eight goals in 19 games. Former Phoenix goalkeeper Danny Vukovic has been particularly impressive, keeping 11 clean sheets. At the other end, the attacking quartet of Alex Brosque, Filip Holosko, Bobo and Milos Ninkovic have combined for 29 goals.

Meanwhile, tonight's game will be Phoenix goalkeeper Glen Moss's 200th in the A-League.