IT DOESN'T seem to matter how competitive Wellington Phoenix is, it always seems to struggle against Melbourne Victory.
Home or away, it doesn't seem to matter. League positions seem almost irrelevant.
Last year - Victory's annus horribilis - proved the point. While the team struggled to beat almost everyone, it found the Nix easy to handle. Victory won all three encounters. In fact, the Phoenix has not beaten Victory in almost two years.
The last time Ricki Herbert's men got to celebrate at the final whistle was in January 2011, but so much has changed, especially for Melbourne. Of Victory's starting line-up in that fixture, only three players remain with the club - Leigh Broxham, Adrian Leijer and Billy Celeski - while Marco Rojas, then enjoying a promising debut season with the Phoenix, is now one of Victory's main men.
Melbourne coach Ange Postecoglou believes the young Kiwi flanker is a prodigious talent. ''He's going OK. I still think he can be better and we're going to push him to be better,'' Postecoglou said before a Sunday training session.
''He's had a little bit of an interrupted start, with being away with internationals and then an interrupted pre-season being away with the Olympics. I still think he has a way to go but I rate him pretty highly. He's had a decent start to the season.
''Last week [against Newcastle Jets] he got into some great areas and if his finishing had been a little better we could've got a win and he could have four or five goals on the board.''
Marooned at the foot of the table, Victory desperately needs the points. A win would take it above fellow strugglers and neighbours, Melbourne Heart. It would also be a vindication for Postecoglou that the style he is trying to inculcate is beginning to take root after a couple of shocks to the system - notably the first-round loss to Heart and the shellacking at the hands of Brisbane.
But Victory has looked more purposeful since then and with luck could have taken something away from the match against the Jets. Gui Finkler, the Brazilian attacking midfielder, comes into the squad and Nathan Coe, who made his debut in the Hunter Valley shortly after arriving from Denmark, gets another chance to consolidate his position as the club's new No. 1 goalkeeper.
The Phoenix is still seething after the dismissal of defender Ben Sigmund last round when Adelaide United striker Jeronimo Neumann appeared to throw himself to the ground in a dive after some initial contact with the Kiwi international.
Sigmund is suspended and has stayed in New Zealand, so 24-year-old defender Michael Boxall, who has played twice this season, comes into the squad.
Two Wellington stalwarts, Leo Bertos and Manny Muscat - one a driving force in wide areas, the other a key man in midfield - are playing their 100th games for the club.