Kosta Barbarouses is poised to join an elite group of A-League footballers.
Friday night’s fourth round Isuzu UTE A-League match against the Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park in Melbourne will be the Wellington Phoenix forward’s 300th appearance in the competition.
Only seven other players, one of which is former Phoenix captain Andrew Durante, have reached the milestone.
“It’s great to do it in a league like this,” Barbarouses told media on Wednesday. “It’s given me a lot.
“I went to Europe early on in my career and since then, just because of how good the league is and has been to me and we’re living on the best side of the world for me and playing football, I haven’t had a strong urge to move since.”
A 17-year-old Barbarouses made his A-League debut 16 years ago, coming off the bench for the Phoenix in round nine of their inaugural season.
The born and bred Wellingtonian has gone on to win four league titles with Brisbane Roar, Melbourne Victory (twice) and Sydney FC either side of stints at his hometown club.
He never thought he’d go on to play 300 A-League matches.
“It’s not something you really target. You just try to give yourself the best chance to have a long career and I think I have done that.
“I’m pretty happy with the achievement. I think more so it’ll be something to look back on at the end of my career and be proud of.
“I’m still going so I’ve still obviously got goals to achieve. I just want to push myself as much as a I can past this as well.”
It’s fitting Kosta Barbarouses is poised to reach the milestone in Melbourne, where he won two A-League titles with the Victory.
“I’ve got really fond memories of Melbourne. I was at the club for five years and it was a very successful five years.
“It’s funny how the stars have sort of aligned to have it there and at a great stadium like AAMI Park. I’ve got a lot of friends and family who will be there too.”
Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano is hoping to celebrate Barbarouses’ 300th game with a win.
“Any victory tomorrow would be great,” Italiano told media on Thursday ahead of the team’s flight to Melbourne. “The fact that it falls on Kosta’s 300th game is also fantastic.
“We believe we can beat anyone on any day. We’re not going to go there to defend. We’re going to go there to build on what we’ve done over the last three weeks.
“There’s a lot of confidence in the group, there’s a lot of belief in the group and I feel like the fans are warming to the way that we’re playing, and we just want to continue that.”
Like the Phoenix, the Victory are unbeaten three games into the new season.
“We played them in a pre-season friendly and out of the pre-season friendlies I thought they were the toughest opponent. There’s no coincidence that they’re doing well.
“Popa’s (Victory coach Tony Popovic) evolved as well from last year’s style. I think they’re a little bit more active this year, a little bit more in your face and they press quite high. They’re actually a good team to watch.”
The Nix beat Victory 1-0 in their pre-season match that was played behind closed doors in Melbourne.
“It was a friendly. What we got out of that was we learnt a bit more about our team spirit.
“But at the end of the day that friendly has been forgotten about. They’ve evolved, we’ve evolved and the variable now is you’ve got a crowd, we’re further into the season and so the expectations for both teams have changed a little bit.
“It’s a different dynamic but I think they will have the pressure on them being the home team.”
Giancarlo Italiano is able to call on a near full strength squad for Friday night’s match.
Fin Conchie is back from injury and Sam Sutton and David Ball have been included in the team’s travelling party.
Jack Duncan hasn’t made the trip to Melbourne as he’s still recovering from the illness that ruled him out of last weekend’s match against Brisbane.
The fourth round Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory is scheduled to kick-off at AAMI Park in Melbourne at 9:45pm (7:45pm AEDT) Friday and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.
Most recent meeting: 1 April 2023 – Wellington Phoenix 1 Melbourne Victory 2
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 11W, Victory 24W & 11D.
Wellington Phoenix squad (two to be omitted): 3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Fin CONCHIE, 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, 19. Sam SUTTON, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 26. Isaac HUGHES, 30. Alby KELLY-HEALD (gk), 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 42. Fergus GILLION, 52. Jackson MANUEL.
Unavailable: 23. Luke SUPYK (U-17 World Cup), 25. Jack DUNCAN (gk) (illness).
Melbourne Victory squad: 2. Jason GERIA, 4. Rai MARCHAN, 5. Damien DA SILVA, 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 7. Chris IKONOMIDIS, 8. Zinedine MACHACH, 10. Bruno FORNAROLI, 11. Ben FOLAMI, 14. Connor CHAPMAN, 16. Stefan NIGRO, 17. Nishan VELUPILLAY, 19. Daniel ARZANI, 20. Paul IZZO (gk), 22. Jake BRIMMER, 23. Fabian MONGE, 24. Eli ADAMS, 25. Ryan TEAGUE, 40. Christian SICILIANO (gk).
Unavailable: 3. Adama TRAORE, 21. Roderick MIRANDA (c).