Men’s Match Preview: Wellington Phoenix vs. Adelaide United

Adelaide United is next up for a resurgent Wellington Phoenix side which is looking to continue its rise up the Isuzu UTE A-League ladder.

The Phoenix have won their last three league matches to move on to the verge of the top six. Three more points on Saturday night will see them leapfrog Adelaide, Melbourne Victory and Macarthur FC and move into the top four.

It is a far cry from New Year’s Day, when Wellington slumped to a fourth straight league defeat, losing 4-0 in Adelaide.

“There are a lot of learning moments from that game,” Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay told media on the eve of the re-match. “I think a lot of players would have learned at halftime from that game as well when I made a few substitutions.

“I think we’ve grown as a team and grown as individuals as well. We have got a bit more consistency with the squad and the starting XI and a few more experienced players involved as well.

“That’s in the past and we’ve learnt from the past and we look ahead and for us it’s a very important game that we want to win and continue on this run.”

The Phoenix have only lost once since New Year’s Day, when they were beaten 4-1 by Melbourne Victory in their FFA Cup semi-final, after leading 1-0 at halftime.

“I think the boys have got a lot of confidence since the Melbourne City game, although we lost the game against Victory in the Cup after that, but for those 60 minutes against Victory we played some really good football and defended quite well.

“Confidence comes from playing good football and winning games. Besides that Victory game, the last game we lost was before Melbourne City.”

The A-Leagues are starting to take notice of the results the team are achieving while they remain stranded across the Tasman.

“It hasn’t been easy. I’ll be honest with you it hasn’t been easy at all,” Talay said.

“It’s nice to be acknowledged…but for me I can only control what I can control and that’s what we do at training and how we prepare the boys for the games.

“[We] try to keep these boys focussed on the end product, which is making the top six and hopefully making the finals series where we can push even harder.

“It’s not an ideal situation. I don’t complain about it. I don’t make excuses about it, which doesn’t open up the door for my players to make excuses about it.”

Saturday evening’s match is Wellington’s third in a week and the team have had just two full days to prepare for Adelaide.

The players that played in the 1-0 win over Melbourne Victory on Wednesday night had a beach recovery session on Thursday before returning to training on Friday.

“It’s hard to really give them time off, it’s more so keeping them away from the training ground and trying to mentally refresh them.

“We’ll see how they pull up and we’ll have to make a decision on who’s fresh and who can get through the next 90 minutes against Adelaide.

“When you’re winning games it’s a little bit easier. The soreness is a lot less and a lot of people want to be on the park and not give up their spot.

“It’s a good thing for me as a coach but we’ll see how we need to manage it.”

Apart from weariness, Talay may have a full-strength squad to pick from with experienced English forward Gary Hooper nearing a return after missing the last two matches with a hamstring injury.

“Hoops is okay. He’s going to train today with the group and then he’s going to do some high speed metres to test that hamstring and then we’ll make a call on him.”

In contrast to the Phoenix’s recent hectic schedule, Adelaide United haven’t played since last Friday when they lost 2-1 to Sydney FC.

Carl Veart’s side have also had a few personnel changes since the two teams last met at the start of the year.

“Adelaide are still a very, very good side,” Talay said. “The difference between us and them now is that we played a game on Wednesday but they haven’t played a [mid-week] game so they’ll be a lot fresher than we are.

“They’ve got players with a few different attributes within the team, but the style and the football that they play is pretty similar to what they’ve been playing previously.

“I can’t see a lot of changes in Carl’s philosophy and how he wants to play the game.”

The Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United is scheduled to kick-off at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Sydney at 4:50pm AEDT (6:50pm NZT) and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 7.

Most recent meeting:
1 January 2022 – Adelaide United 4 Wellington Phoenix 0

All-time head-to-head: Phoenix 10W, Adelaide 21W & 12D.

Wellington Phoenix squad: 3. Matthew BOZINOVSKI, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. James MCGARRY, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Gael SANDOVAL, 8. Ben OLD, 9. David BALL, 10. Reno PISCOPO, 11. Jaushua SOTIRIO, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 14. Alex RUFER (c), 16. Louis FENTON, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 18. Ben WAINE, 19. Sam SUTTON, 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS, 30. Henry GRAY (gk), 31. Kurtis MOGG, 32. George OTT, 33. Finn SURMAN, 34. Jackson MANUEL, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 43. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 88. Gary HOOPER
Doubtful: 88. Gary HOOPER (hamstring injury)