The Wellington Phoenix have a spring in their collective step ahead of the men’s return to Sky Stadium.
The Phoenix play host to Macarthur FC on Sunday afternoon in round five of the Isuzu UTE A-League.
The Nix are still searching for their first win of the new season, but showed their quality and depth last Sunday to draw 2-2 at league leaders Melbourne City, after trailing 2-0 at halftime.
“I think the boys should take a lot of confidence out of that game,” Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay told media on Friday.
“I thought we were playing some football up until that time where we made a mistake, turning over the ball, and gave away a pen.
“No one generally goes to AAMI Park against Melbourne City, has close to 60 per cent possession and probably 200 passes more than the opposition.
“The boys should grow from that game and have a lot of confidence leading into this next game.”
Second-half substitutes Bozhidar Kraev, Kosta Barbarouses, Oskar Zawada and Steven Ugarkovic helped turn the game against City and will be pushing for inclusion from kick-off against Macarthur.
“The gameplan against Melbourne City was to go with what we believed was a side that understood the playing style, a side that was with us for a certain amount of time and that also gave us a lot of firepower off the bench,” Talay said.
“It would have been nice to go in nil-nil at halftime, not two-nil down and chase the game, but the guys coming on the field influenced the game and got us back into the match and we walked away with a point.
“We’re working on a gameplan against Macarthur and we’re rotating players in certain positions to see what’s the best solution for the game.
“The great thing is as a coach I have a headache of players who I know can come in and do a certain role. This week we will decide on what is the best side to play Macarthur.”
The Phoenix have two games at Sky Stadium before the A-League breaks for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and Talay has stressed their significance.
“Now we’re playing at home it’s very important we capitalise on these home games.
“We haven’t had this luxury the last two seasons so now it’s very important with these two home games before the break we maximise it and get six points.
“We’ll select a squad that we believe is the best squad to win us the game.”
Young forward Oskar van Hattum is unlikely to feature because of a “slight” groin strain, joining club captain Alex Rufer on the unavailable list, but popular forward David Ball is likely to feature again after making his first appearance of the season against City.
“He was very stiff the next day, but everyone knows Bally; he works hard for the team, he works hard for the group and for us he’s a very influential player. He’s feeling good at the moment.”
Macarthur FC are without their inspirational captain Ulises Dávila, who remains side-lined with a hamstring injury.
Centre back Jonathan Aspropotamitis is also missing through suspension.
“They still have some decent players, Talay said. “They’ve got some good wingers up front that can hurt you in 1-vs-1 situations, Danny De Silva is still a very influential player for them and (Craig) Noone is back into the squad as well.
“They’ve got a good attacking side. They’re an aggressive pressing team as well and they don’t mind being man for man at times within the game so we need to find solutions to exploit that.”
It is the Bulls’ maiden match in New Zealand, with the five previous A-League meetings between the two sides all being in Australia.
“Macarthur haven’t travelled to Wellington as yet so I think it’ll be a different journey for them to experience.
“They lost their last game against Sydney. They still played well, considering they were [playing] with 10 men they could have themselves back in the game in the last minute.
“It’s going to be a good challenge. Two good teams that want to play so I think it’s going to be an entertaining game.”
The fifth round Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Macarthur FC is scheduled to kick-off at Sky Stadium in Wellington at 3:00pm (1:00pm AEDT) and will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.
Most recent A-League meeting: 6 February 2022 – Wellington Phoenix 3 Macarthur FC 1
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 2W, Macarthur 1W & 2D.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD, 9. Oskar ZAWADA, 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 12. Lucas MAURAGIS, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 18. Ben WAINE, 19. Sam SUTTON, 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS, 31. Yan SASSE, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk).
Unavailable: 14. Alex RUFER (injured), 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM (injured).
Macarthur FC squad: 1. Nick SUMAN (gk), 2. Jake McGING, 6. Tomi USKOK, 7. Daniel DE SILVA, 11. Kearyn BACCUS, 12. Filip KURTO (gk), 13. Ivan VUJICA, 17. Craig NOONE, 18. Mario WILLIAMS, 24. Charles M’MOMBWA, 27. Jerry SKOTADIS, 31. Lachlan ROSE, 32. Isaac HOVAR, 35. Al Hassan TOURE, 37. Jed DREW, 44. Matt MILLAR, 52. Rhys YOULLEY, 94. Anthony CARTER, 99. Daniel ARZANI.
Unavailable: 5. Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS (suspended), 8. Jake HOLLMAN (ill), 10. Ulises DAVILA (injured), 15. Aleksandar SUSNJAR (injured.