Ufuk Talay is eagerly awaiting the Wellington Phoenix’s first visit to Coopers Stadium in 14 months.
The Phoenix are in South Australia to play high-flying Adelaide United and kick-off round 21 of the Isuzu UTE A-League.
The Nix haven’t played at Coopers Stadium since New Year’s Day 2022, when the Reds prevailed 4-0.
“I love coming to Coopers,” Talay told media on the eve of the match. “It’s a real football stadium.
“The crowd is right around the field which makes it a fantastic atmosphere and the Adelaide fans are generally very vocal.
“They support their team well so it’s a great atmosphere to be involved in and we’re playing against a good opposition.”
Adelaide are on a nine-game unbeaten run in the A-League – their best run since their last title-winning campaign in the 2015-16 season.
The Reds’ home record is even more impressive. They have been beaten just once at Coopers Stadium in their last 15 league matches, with 11 wins and three draws.
The Phoenix have won just four times in 23 visits to South Australia, but have fared better recently, with a win, a draw and a defeat since Talay took over.
“I think my first year we beat them 2-1.
“For me it’s a fantastic atmosphere to be involved in and I think the players should relish that.
“Adelaide’s in good form by winning games so it’s going to be a challenging game.
“We know as a team that if we pick up three points where it puts us on the table.”
The Nix will climb to second on the ladder if they beat the Reds, but will have to do it without their leading scorer.
Polish striker Oskar Zawada, who has scored 12 goals this season, including nine in his past 10 matches, has remained behind in Wellington for the birth of his first child.
“He’s a very important player for us,” Talay said. “He scores goals for us to win games.
“He’s an influential player, but it is what it is [and] that’s why we have a squad and that’s why we have depth.
“We’ve still got Kosta (Barbarouses), we’ve got OVH (Oskar van Hattum)…as well so we still have a few players who can fill that role.
“It is what it is. We can’t change the fact that his wife is going to have a baby soon.
“Maybe it would have helped if we had a home game. It would have made it easier for us, but taking him over to Adelaide it’s a long way away if something does happen back at home.”
Ufuk Talay is welcoming back All Whites midfielder Clayton Lewis and young fullback Sam Sutton form injuries.
Lewis has missed Wellington’s past seven matches after fracturing his kneecap in January.
“He’s back probably a week earlier than what we anticipated.
“He’s been training with the team for the last couple of weeks, modified still.
“There’ll only be a few minutes that we can put him on the park, not the full 90 at this stage, but I think it’ll be good to possibly get some minutes into his legs leading into the All Whites camp.”
Sutton has been side-lined with a hamstring injury for the past fortnight, but has been able to train fully this week.
The left fullback may be tasked with stopping inform Adelaide winger Nestory Irankunda.
The 17-year-old has scored three goals in his past three games and has been named as a Socceroos train-on player for Australia’s two friendly matches against Ecuador next week.
“He’s been doing well. He’s been…doing well in cameos, coming off the bench and making an impact.
“He’s a good…young…energetic player and for us our fullbacks, whichever side he plays on, will have to deal with him.
“He’s not the only player on the park. They’ve got (Craig) Goodwin as well, (Hiroshi) Ibusuki if he’s back from concussion.
“They’ve got good players all over the park so it’s going to be a challenging game.”
The 21st round Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United is scheduled to kick-off at Coopers Stadium in Adelaide at 9:45pm (7:15pm ACDT) on Friday and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 2 & 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.
Most recent A-League meeting: 17 December 2022 – Wellington Phoenix 3 Adelaide United 1
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 11W, Adelaide 20W & 14D.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD, 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 12. Lucas MAURAGIS, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 14. Alex RUFER, 15. Nikko BOXALL, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 19. Sam SUTTON, 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 31. Yan SASSE, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk).
Unavailable: 9. Oskar ZAWADA (paternity leave).
Adelaide United squad: 1. James DELIANOV (gk), 3. Ben WARLAND, 4. Nick ANSELL, 6. Louis D’ARRIGO, 7. Ryan KITTO, 8. ISAÍAS, 9. Hiroshi IBUSUKI, 10. Zach CLOUGH, 11. Craig GOODWIN (c), 13. Lachlan BARR, 18. Jay BARNETT, 21. Javi LÓPEZ, 23. Luke DUZEL, 35. Luka JOVANOVIĆ, 36. Panashe MADANHA, 37. Jonny YULL, 41. Alexandar POPOVIĆ, 46. Joe GAUCI (gk), 55. Ethan ALAGICH, 66. Nestory IRANKUNDA.
Unavailable: 2. Harry VAN DER SAAG (injured), 14. George BLACKWOOD (injured), 26. Ben HALLORAN (suspended), 27. Josh CAVALLO (injured), 28. JUANDE (injured), 47. Asad KASUMOVIĆ, 50. Steven HALL (injured).