After beating Melbourne City 1-0 last weekend at Eden Park, the Wellington Phoenix return to their traditional home at Sky Stadium to face rivals Western United for the third – and last – time this season.
Sky Stadium (and Eden Park) has been a fortress for the Phoenix this season, as they have enjoyed a seven match home unbeaten streak (6W, 1D), dating all the way back to the club’s Round 7 against game against Brisbane Roar earlier this season.
The Phoenix know this is a vital chance for the club to gain ground on the league leaders, as they sit fifth in a crowded position on the Hyundai A-League ladder – but only three points back from second-placed Melbourne City. It also gives the club a chance to distance themselves from those teams sitting below, including Western United, as they look to cement a top six finish over the last nine games.
And the match will conclude the rivalry between these two clubs, after both teams took home an away win in their first two meetings this season; Western United winning 1-0 in Round 1 at Sky Stadium, and the Phoenix scoring a solid 3-1 win in Round 12 at Mars Stadium.
In addition to the loss, that last match was costly for Western United because of key injuries suffered to Aaron Calver and Brendan Hamill, which will keep them both out of tomorrow’s game.
Western United will seek to reverse their recent slide, which has seen them with just one win in their last seven matches as they sit four points out of the top six. Of particular worry is their inability to score goals, as they remain without a goal in February – despite the early season scoring prowess of striker Besart Berisha who sits third in goals scored this season.
Meanwhile the Phoenix are continuing to ride a wave of solid from, and tomorrow will be able to field a full-strength squad for the first time in several matches.
The club will be buoyed by the recent form of their English players; Gary Hooper is hitting his stride as a goal-scoring force, following up his two goals against Perth with a fantastic assist to David Ball versus Melbourne City. Ball has been a hard-working performer on the pitch – the engine that powers the squad – and Steven Taylor has provided a firm defensive presence all season long.
This will also be the Phoenix’s Mental Health round, in support of the Mental Health Foundation of NZ. In addition to assisting this fantastic charity with fundraising initiatives and awareness-raising, the Phoenix will be unveiling a special surprise at the match itself.
At a Glance:
Date: Friday, 21 February 2020
Kick-off: 7.15pm NZT
Venue: Sky Stadium, Wellington
Broadcast (NZ) Sky Sport 7
Wellington Phoenix Squad:
1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 2.Liam McGING, 3.Luke DEVERE, 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 5.Matti STEINMANN, 6.Tim PAYNE, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9. David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 12. Brandan Wilson, 13.Liberato CACACE, 14.Alex RUFER, 20.Oliver SAIL (gk), 21.Callum MCCOWATT, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c), 31.Ben WAINE, 32.Sam SUTTON, 88. Gary HOOPER
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 2.Liam McGING (Promoted), 6.Tim PAYNE (Return from Suspension)
Unavailable: 16.Louis FENTON (Shoulder – season), 23.Walter SCOTT (Injury – Knee)
Western United FC Squad:
1.Filip KURTO (gk), 4.Andrew DURANTE, 5.Dylan PIERIAS, 6. Tomoki IMAI, 7.Valentino YUEL, 8.Panagiotis KONE, 9.Apostolos STAMATELOPOULOS, 11.Connor PAIN, 12.Dario JERTEC, 14.Max BURGESS, 17.Joshua CAVALLO, 18.Besart BERISHA, 19.Josh RISDON, 22.Tomislav USKOK, 23.Alessandro DIAMANTI (c), 24.Thiel Iradukunda, 25.Luke DUZEL, 27.Jerry SKOTADIS, 28.Oskar Dillon, 30.Ryan SCOTT (gk)
*2-4 to be omitted*
Ins: 12.Dario JERTEC (promoted), 22.Tomislav USKOK (promoted)
Unavailable: 2.Aaron CALVER (foot 2 weeks) 13.Ivan VUJICA (osteitis ), 20.James DELIANOV (gk) (knee, season), 3.Brendan HAMILL (knee, season)