Isuzu UTE A-League Round 8 Match Preview

A new experience for Giancarlo Italiano and the Wellington Phoenix in the 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League.

The Phoenix visit unbeaten Macarthur FC in the final match of round nine on Monday night, nine days after suffering their first defeat of the season, a 3-0 loss at home to the Newcastle Jets.

It was also the first time Italiano had been on the losing side as an A-League head coach, but he says it’s still been “business as usual” this week.

“I said a long time ago that this was always going to happen,” Italiano told media on Friday. “It’s unrealistic to think that you’re not going to lose games.

“For us it’s more about getting back to the hard work, sticking to the process and making sure the messaging is still consistent.

“We’ve changed nothing. It’s pretty much back to normal.”

Giancarlo Italiano looks on during a Wellington Phoenix training session. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

He is looking for a positive response from the team.

“Part of any learning process is going through the ups and more importantly how you deal with losing, the downs.

“It’s very important that the group takes as much as they can from that whole game.

“We felt as though the Jets probably had a little bit more energy on the day. Our boys didn’t give up [but] once the game got to 3-nil maybe we didn’t have that belief that we could get back into the game, even though they still tried.

“It probably wasn’t our best game defensively and we’re just going back to what we know best.

“Look, it’s going to happen. There are going to be games where you play really well and lose, and you can play poorly and get rewarded.

“For us it’s just making sure that the performance is polished and that we build and learn on the week before.

“We’ve addressed those things at training this week and it’s been really positive.”

Bozhidar Kraev and Nicholas Pennington prepare for a Wellington Phoenix training session. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

Macarthur FC entered the round as one of just two unbeaten teams and sat atop the ladder after seven matches.

“They’ve been very effective at what they’ve been doing,” Italiano said.

“They rely on Uli (Ulises Dávila) quite a bit [and] Clayton Lewis quite a bit. I also like the look of their nine [Valère] Germain. He looks like a very dangerous player.

“And they’ve got a lot of speed up front. Jed Drew and Matt Millar are up top and they’re dangerous, especially on the counter-attack.

“They’re very effective with what they do and they’re top of the table deservedly.”

Oskar Zawada with his left thigh heavily strapped at Wellington Phoenix training on Friday. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

The fitness of striker Oskar Zawada was Giancarlo Italiano’s only injury concern when he spoke to media ahead of training on Friday, after Zawada was forced off in the second-half of the defeat to Newcastle.

Unfortunately Zawada has not been able to recover from the thigh contusion and didn’t travel with the squad to Sydney on Sunday afternoon.

Italiano has made minimal changes to his starting XI through the opening seven rounds, but is likely to make more tweaks as the Phoenix play their next three matches in 12 days.

“It’s more to do with the fixture list. When you have a spacing of a week between games I like to keep things consistent and it also rewards those performances.

“But now with a more congested fixture list we’re probably looking at turning over some players just to keep the freshness in the squad.

“There are players waiting in the wings that are deserving of gametime as well. We’ll factor all those things in and try to work it as best as possible.”

Fin Conchie at Wellington Phoenix training on Friday. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photmac.

Ben Old, Sam Sutton, Fin Conchie, Luke Supyk and Oskar van Hattum are amongst those pushing for more gametime.

“They’re all in contention. We don’t have the biggest squad so there will be a turnover at some point and all of those boys will get an opportunity.”

The Nix have won three of their last four A-League matches against Macarthur and have also won three of their last four meetings at Campbelltown Stadium.

Three points will lift Wellington back to the top of the competition ladder.

David Ball, Kosta Barbarouses, Tim Payne and Scott Wootton share a laugh during Wellington Phoenix training. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

The eighth round Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Macarthur FC is scheduled to kick-off at Campbelltown Sports Stadium in Sydney at 9pm (7pm AEDT) Monday and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 1 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.

Most recent meeting:
29 April 2023 – Macarthur 0 Wellington Phoenix 1

All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 4W, Macarthur 2W & 2D.

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, 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 12. Mo AL-TAAY, 14. Alex RUFER (c), 15. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 18. Lukas KELLY-HEALD, 19. Sam SUTTON, 23. Luke SUPYK, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 25. Jack DUNCAN (gk), 26. Isaac HUGHES, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 42. Fergus GILLION, 43. Matt SHERIDAN.
Unavailable: 9. Oskar ZAWADA (injured).

Macarthur FC squad (two to be omitted)1. Danijel NIZIC (gk), 4. Matthew JURMAN, 5. Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, 6. Tomi USKOK, 7. Danny DE SILVA, 8. Jake HOLLMAN, 10. Ulises DAVILA, 12. Filip KURTO (gk), 13. Ivan VUJICA, 14. Kristian POPOVIC, 15. Kearyn BACCUS, 17. RAPHAEL, 22. Yianni NICOLAOU, 23. Clayton LEWIS, 24. Charles M’MOMBWA, 27. Jerry SKOTADIS, 36. Ali AUGLAH, 37. Jed DREW, 44. Matt MILLAR, 98. Valere GERMAIN.
2. Jake McGING, 31. Lachlan ROSE