The Wellington Phoenix are still with their head coach and more than half a dozen front-line players but have a chance to move into the top six of the Isuzu UTE A-League on Wednesday night.
A win over the Brisbane Roar at Moreton Daily Stadium in Redcliffe could lift the Phoenix as high as fourth on the ladder and they would sit just a point behind third-placed Adelaide United.
Assistant coach Giancarlo Italiano will again take charge of the Nix, with Ufuk Talay isolating from the team after testing positive to COVID-19 on Friday.
“He’s had some time away. It’s actually a good opportunity for him to refresh a little bit,” Italiano told media on Tuesday.
“We do everything together so in terms of taking the workload it hasn’t been difficult at all. We’re on the same page for everything.
“It does strain resources but to be fair the whole coaching staff has really picked up and done well.”
Italiano will have to make at least one change to the Phoenix side that started the last-gasp 2-1 win over Perth Glory on Saturday, with All Whites midfielder Clayton Lewis unavailable after suffering a seemingly serious ankle injury.
Match-winner Nicholas Pennington will start in one of the defensive midfield positions, but it remains to see who will partner him.
“We have a couple of options,” Italiano said. “We have Sam Sutton who’s played there before, Jackson Manuel and then there are a couple of other options we might be exploring.
“We’ll put who we feel is most appropriate in that position that can perform.
“If it’s Sam Sutton he’ll do a fantastic job and Jackson as well has been doing very well at training and if given the opportunity he’ll do well.”
With captain Alex Rufer out for the remainder of the season and beyond, Giancarlo Italiano says Pennington has a great opportunity to make the position his own.
“It’s for him now to take the initiative and really grow into that spot.
“I think…that he’s been showing signs of consistency and really growing into that position.
“I think he’ll do well from now until the end of the season. I think he’ll lead the team like Rufer and Clayton did before.”
While Italiano will be unable to call on Lewis, ‘Chiefy’ is hopeful attacking midfielder Reno Piscopo will be able to feature against Brisbane.
Piscopo has been side-lined with a calf injury for the past five and a half weeks and has sat out the Phoenix’s past four A-League matches.
“Reno’s a fantastic player. He’s very valuable to the way we play and when he’s on the park he can be a difference for a result.
“[His return would be] very good for group morale as well.”
Piscopo is unlikely to start if he is cleared to play.
“We’d be mindful of the amount of work that he’s done over the last couple of weeks and the nature of the injury.
“For us we’d be looking at just trying to steady him for the next couple of games. We have a hectic schedule over the next couple of weeks so nice, steady and slow.”
The two sides last met just two and a half weeks ago at the same venue, with Brisbane Roar winning 2-1.
“I think this season’s very unique in the sense that the rescheduling of games and the amount of games we played prior to that Brisbane game threw things out of whack.”
“The last time we played Brisbane we had a six game stretch and then we had a two week break. We went into that game possibly suffering from those affects.
“I think the boys have learnt from their last experience and I think they’ll be really up for the challenge.”
The Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Brisbane Roar is scheduled to kick-off at Moreton Daily Stadium in Redcliffe at 7:05pm AEDT (9:05pm NZT) and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.
Most recent meeting: 12 March 2022 – Brisbane Roar 2 Wellington Phoenix 1
All-time head-to-head: Phoenix 9W, Roar 21W & 13D.
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), 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
Unavailable: 6. Tim PAYNE (international duty), 11. Jaushua SOTIRIO (hamstring injury), 14. Alex RUFER (season-ending knee injury), 21. Joshua LAWS (ankle injury), 23. Clayton LEWIS (ankle injury), 43. Oskar VAN HATTUM (hamstring injury), 88. Gary HOOPER (calf injury)
Doubtful: 10. Reno PISCOPO (calf injury)