FFA Cup Match Preview: Wellington Phoenix vs. Western United

A young Wellington Phoenix side will endeavour to turnaround the club’s FFA Cup fortunes on Tuesday night.

The Phoenix, minus a few regulars, have travelled to Melbourne to face Western United in their round of 32 match at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong.

Wellington have advanced to the round of 16 just once in six seasons of the knock-out competition, but the opening ties have previously fallen at the start of the team’s pre-season.

This time around the Nix are playing Western United after three Isuzu UTE A-League matches and a number of warm-up games in Wellington.

Head coach Ufuk Talay sees the FFA Cup has a chance for his extended squad to get some much-needed game time and told media on Monday morning that some players wouldn’t make the trip.

“You’ll definitely see a younger squad out there against Western United and also try to give some match minutes to players that haven’t had a lot of game time since the start of the season,” Talay said.

“There will be some players resting with the quick turnaround because we’re playing Newcastle Jets on Friday again.”

Academy players Finn Surman, Jackson Manuel and Oskar van Hattum are three of those in contention for selection, having joined the Phoenix in Sydney last week.

“They have settled in quite well. The great thing is that we have Chris Greenacre looking after the reserves and replicating everything we do with the first team so it’s been an easy transition for those guys coming in.

“It’s an opportunity for these young boys that we’ve brought across and the younger ones that we have here to showcase themselves and see if they do well.”

Surman, Manuel and van Hattum are three of 11 academy graduates in the Phoenix’s 24-strong squad in Australia, which is a point of pride for the club.

“We heavily rely on the academy…so this is a great opportunity for those boys to step up, showcase their talents and hopefully do well at the same time,” Talay said.

“Sometimes as a young player these opportunities don’t come, but at Wellington Phoenix we rely on the academy and these opportunities pop up and I’m hoping they step up and do a great job.”

But Ufuk Talay has made it clear they “still want to do well in the cup”.

“The players are always going to be a reflection of me at the end of the day. I always set up a team to win.

“I never go out there and set-up a team to draw or to lose.

“I want to win every game that we play and regardless of the age of these players my expectation is still the same that we produce a certain brand, a certain product and that we get the result.”

Talay has welcomed the quick turnaround for his players after the Phoenix’s 13-game unbeaten run came to a controversial end against Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday night.

“The best thing about football is having a game very close. That’s in the past, we learn from it, we know what we need to improve on.

“We’ve been playing some good football. I don’t think the one loss is going to turn into a habit very quickly.

“It was just a hiccup. I don’t think it was because of the football that we played that caused that hiccup.”

The Phoenix are unbeaten in their last five matches against Western United since losing their first meeting in October 2019.

Western United leaked goals last season, but have conceded just two in their first three A-League matches this campaign and are fresh off a 1-0 win over reigning champions Melbourne City on Saturday.

Pacy Phoenix forward Jaushua Sotirio has travelled to Melbourne after missing the defeat to Western Sydney with a swollen ankle, while left back Sam Sutton is in line for his first minutes of the season having recovered from a knee injury.

The round of 32 FFA Cup between the Wellington Phoenix and Western United is scheduled to kick-off at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong at 7:30pm AEDT (9:30pm NZT).

The winner of Tuesday night’s tie will face Melbourne club Avondale FC in the round of 16 next week.

Most recent meeting: 22 May 2021 – Wellington Phoenix 3 Western United 0

All-time head-to-head: Phoenix 4W, Western United 1W & 1D.

Wellington Phoenix squad: 3. Matthew BOZINOVSKI, 5. James MCGARRY, 6. Tim PAYNE, 8. Ben OLD, 9. David BALL, 10. Reno PISCOPO, 11. Jaushua SOTIRIO, 12. Luka PRSO, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 14. Alex RUFER (c), 16. Louis FENTON, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 18. Ben WAINE, 19. Sam SUTTON, 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS, 31. Kurtis MOGG, 32. George OTT, 33. Finn SURMAN, 34. Jackson MANUEL, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 43. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 88. Gary HOOPER