Liberty A-League Round 18 Match Preview

The Wellington Phoenix still believe they will be embarking on their maiden finals campaign next month.

The Phoenix enter round 18 in ninth place on the ladder, four points adrift of the all-important top six, but with a game in hand over most of their rivals.

Wellington’s remaining six round-robin matches come in just 28 days, starting with Sunday’s match against Melbourne Victory in Melbourne.

The Nix will then travel to Perth to play the Glory next Friday before playing three of their final four matches at Porirua Park.

“We still believe we’ve got what it takes to get into the playoffs,” Phoenix head coach Paul Temple told media after training on Friday.

“We still believe we can go and win some games on the road in the next few weeks, pick up points at Melbourne and at Perth.

“Realistically we probably need to be doing that if we’re going to be pushing for finals.

“I know we’ve got a series of home games coming up which will be awesome, but before we focus on that part we’ve got to get this trip out of the way and we’ve got to make sure we get something from these next two games.”

Temple believes points from their next two matches are paramount if they are to remain in control of their own destiny.

“I don’t think it’s like season-defining in terms of you absolutely must get some points in the next few games because I still think you could win the last four and stand a chance, but you don’t want to be in the situation where you’re relying on anybody else.

“If we’re relying late on in the season for results to go our way or for someone to do us a favour then it’s out of our hands and out of our control and that’s not a nice feeling.

“We’ve got to look after ourselves and do what we need to do now and that’s go to Victory on Sunday, put in a really good performance, see if we can get some points from the game, [and] obviously we’re going to go there and try and win.”

The Wellington Phoenix women warm-up for training at NZCIS on Friday. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

That’s easier said than done. Victory are unbeaten in their past six matches and enter the round in fourth place.

“You look at their line-up and their players and you can just see they’ve got some really, really talented footballers.

“And they’re champions. They’ve won this competition numerous times. They’re always in the mix. Jeff [Hopkins] does an amazing job with that group consistently year after year.

“It’s a really good marker for us. [If] we can go there, compete, hopefully…we can get three points [and] that would just give us a huge amount of confidence because they are one of those teams that’s always going to be there or thereabouts come finals time.”

Paul Temple talks to the players after training at NZCIS on Friday. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

The two sides played out an entertaining 2-2 draw when they last met at Porirua Park in December and Paul Temple believes it could be a similar kind of match this time around.

“It’ll be nice if it was a bit more controlled from a coaching point of view…but it’s two teams that I think have a similar type of philosophy to what they want to do and it’s good to watch.

“What we took from it, apart from the point, was that we were very competitive against them and we could go toe-to-toe with a team like Victory.

“We’ll go into this weekend with that same mentality.”

Temple has a near full-strength squad to call on, having welcomed back Michaela Foster, Mackenzie Barry, Brianna Edwards and Kate Taylor from international duty.

Foster, Barry and Edwards will all travel to Melbourne on Saturday, while Taylor to remain in Wellington to rest a minor injury.

“It’s really nice to have the Football Ferns back. Obviously, things went really well for them in Samoa.

“Expecting the squad to be a lot tougher to get into this week and good competition to try and make the team for this week.

“Looking forward to having all those players to choose from. Some of them are going to be available to start, some we might have to just manage.”

Macey Fraser warms up for training at NZCIS on Friday. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

Top scorer Mariana Speckmaier and midfielder Macey Fraser are also likely to return against Victory after missing the defeat to Western United with injuries, but captain Annalie Longo is unlikely to feature.

The round 18 Liberty A-League match between Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory is scheduled to kick-off at The Home of the Matildas in Melbourne at 4pm (2pm AEDT) Sunday and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.

Most recent meeting:
10 December 2023 – Wellington Phoenix 2 Melbourne Victory 2

All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 0W, Victory 2W & 2D.

Wellington Phoenix squad
(four to be omitted):1. Rylee FOSTER (gk), 2. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 6. Macey FRASER, 7. Isabel COX, 9. Kelli BROWN, 10. Alyssa WHINHAM, 11. Hope BRESLIN, 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 13. Michaela FOSTER, 14. Michaela ROBERTSON, 15. Daisy BRAZENDALE, 16. Annalie LONGO (c), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER, 18. Hailey DAVIDSON, 20. Emma MAIN, 21. Manaia ELLIOTT, 23. Rebecca LAKE, 26. Tiana JABER, 27. Helena ERRINGTON.
Unavailable: 3. Kate TAYLOR (injured), 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER (injured), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI (injured).

Melbourne Victory squad (four to be omitted)2. Jamilla RANKIN, 3. Tori HANSEN, 4. Sara D’APPOLONIA, 5. Jessika NASH, 6. Beattie GOAD, 7. Ella O’GRADY, 8. Alana MURPHY, 9. Emily GIELNIK, 10. Alex CHIDIAC, 13. Kurea OKINO, 15. Emma CHECKER, 16. Paige ZOIS, 18. Kayla MORRISON, 19. Lia PRIVITELLI, 21. Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 23. Rachel LOWE, 27. Rosie CURTIS, 50. Courtney NEWBON (gk), 66. Geo CANDY (gk).
1. Lydia WILLIAMS (gk), 20.Miranda TEMPLEMAN (gk).

Main image: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.