Isuzu UTE A-League Round 2 Match Preview

Giancarlo Italiano is eagerly awaiting his first game in charge of the Wellington Phoenix at Sky Stadium.

The Phoenix host Perth Glory in their home opener on Saturday evening, having begun the new Isuzu UTE A-League season with an encouraging draw at Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday.

Italiano is endeavouring to become just the third Wellington Phoenix head coach to win his first home game.

“I’m excited,” he told media on Friday. “I’ve said from day one that football is always about the fans and I’d love to see a good turnout to support the boys.

“It’s been a long pre-season and a lot of guys have written us off as well, so I’d like to see the grassroot fans come out and support the team and show love for the club.

“Our boys last week showed dedication to the club and what we’re going to be about this year. It’d be nice to play a home game and get a nice buzz.

“The venue’s great, hopefully tomorrow there will be a bit of sun and it won’t be too hot which will be a good recipe for some good football.”

Italiano wants Nix fans to play their part at Sky Stadium.

“[I want] an active crowd where, even if it’s five, six or seven thousand, as long as they’re singing the whole game. For me that’s the main thing.

“It’s about creating an atmosphere. I’ve seen some games where there’s been 25 thousand and you wouldn’t know that there’s more than five people in the stadium, and I’ve been to games where there have been a thousand and they sing the whole time and it’s great.

“The better the football, the better atmosphere and it’s a bit of a cycle.”

He has faith in the team’s set-up, despite creating limited goalscoring opportunities against Wanderers in round one.

“The boys believe in the system. The big issue we’ve had, and I’ve said it from day one, is lack of games at this level to evolve the system.

“But now we’ve had a couple of games and there’s a couple of things we’re going to tinker with for this weekend.

“Being the home team, we’re going to take the initiative in this game and be very, very aggressive.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – OCTOBER 22: David Ball of the Phoenix passes the ball whilst under pressure Jack Clisby of the Wanderers during the A-League Men round one match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Wellington Phoenix at CommBank Stadium, on October 22, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

Giancarlo Italiano is still unable to call on left back Sam Sutton and young forward Luke Supyk because of injuries, and rookie midfielder Fin Conchie has succumbed to a hamstring strain.

Vice-captain David Ball is also in doubt for Saturday’s match because of soreness in his hip.

“He played on one leg against Wanderers. I prefer players with two legs. He’ll be touch and go for tomorrow.

“Last week’s stint in the heat might have aggravated it a little bit, so we’re just being cautious now.

“We’re hoping to manage him through the first five rounds of the season.”

Attacking midfielder Ben Old (left) chats to Wellington Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

Ben Old, who is coming back from a long-term injury himself and featured as a second half substitute in round one, is a potential replacement for Ball.

“I’m still weighing up what the best option is. I’m also trying to manage Oldy and what’s best for him long-term.

“As much as I want him playing regularly and starting, we also have to be cautious because his injury is not an easy thing to manage.

“Starting is a different dynamic as opposed to coming off the bench when the game is a little bit more open.

“He hasn’t played 90 minutes yet in the pre-season and building up to that requirement takes time.”

The Wellington Phoenix squad warms up for training at NZCIS. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

Fit-again forward Oskar van Hattum is another potential option, but Italiano says he won’t be risked from the start.

The Wellington Phoenix are undefeated in their last seven A-League men’s matches against Perth Glory, with Perth’s last win coming in the 2020 elimination final.

The Glory men have also won just one of their last 22 A-League matches outside Western Australia.

The second round Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory is scheduled to kick-off at Sky Stadium in Wellington at 5:30pm (3:30pm AEDT) Saturday and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.

Most recent meeting:
28 January 2023 – Wellington Phoenix 2 Perth Glory 2

All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 18W, Glory 20W & 11D.

Wellington Phoenix squad
(two to be omitted)3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD, 9. Oskar ZAWADA, 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 12. Mo AL-TAAY, 14. Alex RUFER (c), 15. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 18. Lukas KELLY-HEALD, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM 25. Jack DUNCAN (gk), 26. Isaac HUGHES, 34. Josh RUDLAND, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 41. Kaelin NGUYEN, 42. Fergus GILLION, 52. Jackson MANUEL.
Unavailable: 5. Fin CONCHIE (injured), 19. Sam SUTTON (injured), 23. Luke SUPYK (injured).

Perth Glory (one to be omitted)1. Oli SAIL (gk), 2. Johnny KOUTROUMBIS, 3. Jacob MUIR, 4. Luke BODNAR, 5. Mark BEEVERS (co-captain), 7. Stefan COLAKOVSKI, 9. David WILLIAMS, 12. Luke IVANOVIC, 13. Cameron COOK (gk), 14. Riley WARLAND, 15. Aleksandar SUSNJAR, 17. Jarrod CARLUCCIO, 19. Trent OSTLER, 20. Giordano COLLI, 22. Adam TAGGART (co-captain), 23. Daniel BENNIE, 24. Oliver BOZANIC, 29. Darryl LACHMAN, 77. Bruce KAMAU.
6. Aaron MCENEFF (injured), 8. Mustafa AMINI (injured), 10.S alim KHELIFI (injured), 11. Adam ZIMARINO (injured), 21. Antonis MARTIS (injured), 27. Jayden GORMAN (injured).