Isuzu UTE A-League Round 17 Match Preview

The Wellington Phoenix’s unbeaten start to 2024 will be put to the test in south-west Sydney on Sunday.

The competition leaders are visiting Macarthur FC, who like the Phoenix are unbeaten in their past seven matches.

Macarthur have moved into premiership contention. They started the round in third, level on points with second-placed Central Coast Mariners.

“In terms of personnel they have one of the best squads in the league,” Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano told media before training on Friday.

“Uli (Ulises Davila) I’m a big fan of. I think he’s one of the best 10s in the league. A Johnny Warren Medallist and we respect him.

[Valère] Germain up top, he’s a very good player. Obviously, Clayton [Lewis], a quality six. A lot of those players get them through their games and get the results.

“They’re a tough team to play, like all the other A-League teams so we’ll make sure we give them respect like we do all other teams.”

The Phoenix won 3-0 at Campbelltown Sports Ground the week before Christmas, but Italiano believes it will be a completely different contest this time around.

“It’ll be a match where it won’t be decided early. It’ll be a bit of a grind from both teams. I think they’ll respect us as well.

“The last game the dynamic was a little bit different in terms of we played more of a counter-attacking game where we felt they had some weakness.

“I think they’ve evolved so we’re going to try something a little bit different this time to curb what we think their weakness is at the moment.”

Giancarlo Italiano will be without four frontline players for Sunday evening’s match, with midfielders Bozhidar Kraev and Nicholas Pennington joining fullbacks Tim Payne and Sam Sutton on the sidelines, while a number of others are nursing minor injuries.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – FEBRUARY 15: Youstin Salas warms up during a Wellington Phoenix A-League Player Signing Announcement & Training Session at NZCIS on February 15, 2024 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

“There are a couple of knocks at the moment. It’s a consequence of the fact that we played those three games in a short amount of time, the travel and being away. It’s kind of caught up [with us].

“And the fact that we’ve played a lot of these players for a lot of games consecutively it’s probably getting to that stage of the season where niggles can become a little bit more than what they are.”

New signing Youstin Salas has travelled with the squad but isn’t ready to start.

“His last game was on the 21st of January in Costa Rica and he had a strain in his quad.

“We monitored him from that date and his expected return to play is actually sooner than what we had thought, which is positive, but to put him through 90 at the moment would be too much to expect from him.

“And in terms of acclimatising to the group and so on it’s unrealistic. But I’m hoping we get some minutes off the bench from him.

“For me it’s more about phasing him in nice and easy, not to expose him too quickly. Because foreigners coming into the league it does take a bit of time and adjustment before they get used to the pace of the A-League.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – FEBRUARY 15: Oskar Zawada looks on during a Wellington Phoenix A-League Training Session at NZCIS on February 15, 2024 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Striker Oskar Zawada is also likely to feature off the bench, having missed Wellington’s two recent home matches with a groin strain.

With only a limited number of fully-fit players to be call upon, Italiano may have to change tactics.

“We have some injuries so it’s about placing those players in those situations that we think can hurt them.

“If we don’t feel like we don’t have the right personnel then we have to change the tactics to modify what players we do have.

“That’s actually the fun part….arguing in the office about what the best option is and then making sure we’ve covered all bases and then when we get to the game it’s like we’ve covered everything mentally and every possible scenario, and we see how it goes.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – FEBRUARY 15: Coach Giancarlo Italiano loduring a Wellington Phoenix A-League Player Signing Announcement & Training Session at NZCIS on February 15, 2024 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The round 17 Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Macarthur FC is scheduled to kick-off at Campbelltown Sports Stadium in Sydney at 7pm (5pm AEDT) Sunday and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.

Most recent meeting:
18 December 2023 – Macarthur FC 0 Wellington Phoenix 3

All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 5W, Macarthur 2W & 2D.

Wellington Phoenix squad: 
3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Fin CONCHIE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD, 9. Oskar ZAWADA, 10. David BALL, 12. Mo AL-TAAY, 14. Alex RUFER (c), 17. Youstin SALAS, 18. Lukas KELLY-HEALD, 23. Luke SUPYK, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 25. Jack DUNCAN (gk), 26. Isaac HUGHES, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 43. Matt SHERIDAN, 51. Gabriel SLOANE-RODRIGUES.
Unavailable: 6. Tim PAYNE (injured), 11. Bozhidar KRAEV (injured) , 15. Nicholas PENNINGTON (injured), 19. Sam SUTTON (injured).

Macarthur FC squad (two to be omitted): 1. Danijel NIZIC (gk), 3. Tommy SMITH, 4. Matthew JURMAN, 6. Tomi USKOK, 8. Jake HOLLMAN, 10. Ulises DAVILA (c), 12. Filip KURTO (gk), 13. Ivan VUJICA, 14. Kristian POPOVIC, 17. RAPHAEL, 18. Walter SCOTT, 20. Kealey ADAMSON, 21. BERNARDO Oliveira, 22. Yianni NICOLAOU, 23. Clayton LEWIS, 24. Charles M’MOMBWA, 31. Lachlan ROSE, 37. Jed DREW, 53. Ariath PIOL, 98. Valere GERMAIN.
2. Jake McGING, 7. Danny DE SILVA, 15. Kearyn BACCUS, 19. Jesper WEBBER, 44. Matt MILLAR.