They looked down and out a month ago, but Wellington Phoenix are making a late charge for the Hyundai A-League Finals Series. Here are the scenarios you need to know when asked: “Can the Nix make the six?”
In short, yes they can.
In fact, they could theoretically finish as high as fifth.
But they’ll need a few things to go their way.
CURRENT SITUATION (AFTER 25 of 27 ROUNDS)
5. Western Sydney Wanderers 34 points, GD 0
6. Perth Glory 33 points, GD -3
7. Wellington Phoenix 29 points, GD -4
Western Sydney Wanderers: Melbourne Victory (H), Adelaide United (A)
Perth Glory: Brisbane Roar (H), Melbourne City (H)
Wellington Phoenix: Sydney FC (H), Brisbane Roar (A)
There are four scenarios under which Phoenix could sneak into the Finals Series.
1. Phoenix win their remaining two games and Perth win neither of their remaining two games.
2. Phoenix have a win and draw in their remaining two games and Perth lose their remaining two games.
3. Phoenix win their remaining two games and Western Sydney lose their remaining two games.
4. Phoenix win their remaining two games and Western Sydney have a draw and a loss in their remaining two games, at which point it would come down to goal difference (see below).
MOMENTUM IS A MAJOR FACTOR
Phoenix have momentum, Perth do not.
Glory have been hit by injuries to key players Alex Grant, Nebo Marinkovic, Rostyn Griffiths and Shane Lowry.
They’ve also suffered a form-lapse, picking up just two points from the last available dozen and leaking 11 goals in their last four games.
By contrast, Phoenix have won three and drawn one of their last five matches, scoring 14 goals in the process.
They put second-placed Victory to the sword on Sunday, recording just a second-ever away win at Melbourne.
GOAL DIFFERENCE COULD BE KEY
Phoenix’s recent goal-rush has helped their cause.
Eight unanswered goals in their last two games have improved their goal difference to -4, just one worse than Perth Glory and four back from Western Sydney.
Now, consider this scenario: Phoenix beat both Sydney FC and Brisbane 1-0, while Western Sydney have a draw and a 2-goal loss in their games against Melbourne Victory and Adelaide.
Under those circumstances, Wellington and Western Sydney would finish equal on points and goal difference, with Phoenix advancing to the Finals Series having scored more goals.
Meantime, if Phoenix and Perth finish equal on points, there is no combination of results which could see Phoenix finish below Perth on goal difference.
CASTRO COULD BE PHOENIX’S KILLER
Five weeks ago, the Phoenix held a 3-1 lead heading into the final quarter of a pulsating game against Perth in Auckland.
Adam Taggart reduced the deficit, before Diego Castro curled a sublime free-kick into the top corner to rescue a point for Glory.
Had it not been for the Spaniard’s late stunner, the two sides would be just one point apart heading into the season’s final fortnight.
BUT … IT COULD ALL END THIS WEEKEND
At the very least, the Phoenix must earn a point against Premier’s Plate winners Sydney FC on Saturday night at Westpac Stadium.
Defeat would end their hopes of making the Finals Series, regardless of what happens elsewhere.