Men’s Match Preview: Wellington Phoenix vs. Macarthur FC

The Wellington Phoenix are embracing their ‘February Football Frenzy’.

The men will travel to south-west Sydney on Sunday to play Macarthur FC in the first of five Isuzu UTE A-League matches in just 14 days.

The A-Leagues announced a feast of football on Thursday, with games to be played six days a week this month in a bid to catch-up on fixtures that were postponed by the Omicron outbreak that swept through New South Wales and Victoria in December and January.

Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay says he’s “excited there are a lot of games in a short period of time”.

“We need to manage the boys well and get through these games as best we can, but look at the end of the day if I was a player all you want to do is play games so what a great opportunity,” Talay told media on the eve of the match.

It is their first match since their FFA Cup semi-final defeat to Melbourne Victory, but the team have moved on.

“The boys are okay. The boys are pretty good, training has been good this week.

“The Cup’s done so now we focus on the season.”

Ufuk Talay will be able to call on vice-captain Oli Sail for the first time since December 19, when he suffered a hip flexor injury just 10 minutes into the fifth-round match against Sydney FC.

“He’s all good. He’s good to go. He’s ticked all the boxes so he’s available for selection for the game.

Young goalkeeper Alex Paulsen shone in Sail’s absence, highlighted by his penalty shoot-our heroics in the FFA Cup quarter-final against reigning A-League champions Melbourne City.

“AP understands. He’s come in [and] he’s done a fantastic job [but] look Oli is our number one ‘keeper, we signed Oli as our number one ‘keeper and if he’s available to play most likely he will play.

Talay believes the Phoenix are “blessed” to have such competition between the goalkeepers.

“We’re very fortunate that we’ve got quality goalkeepers and we’ve always had quality goalkeepers at this club.

“AP will continue that pressure if Oli does come back in so it’s good for players competing for that spot.”

Centre back Tim Payne and midfielder Clayton Lewis are also available for selection again after returning from international duty with the All Whites, but experienced English defender Scott Wootton remains side-lined with a quad injury.

“Scott is not ready at the moment. Hopefully we can get him ready for the game on Wednesday.”

Talay concedes it is frustrating an injury is delaying Wootton’s debut.

“But at the same time we’ve got to make sure he’s 100% right before we throw him in there.

“Make sure he’s 100% ready to go rather than try to force him to play a game and then he’s out for another six to eight weeks.”

Macarthur FC returned from a COVID-enforced five week absence on Tuesday night and drew 2-2 with Western United.

“I think they did well against Western United to come back into the game from where they were,” Talay said.

“They’ve got a very experienced team. They’re got some quality players but for me the focus is on us, what we do when we have the ball and what we need to do defensively to nullify their attack.

“We need to rely on our structure, our beliefs and the way we want to do things.

“Every game is a challenge for us, but I think it’s a good opportunity for us to get three points.”

The Phoenix were due to meet Macarthur at Campbelltown in round one of the 2021/22 season, but the match was moved to Newcastle as the playing surface wasn’t up to standard.

It was originally hoped this fixture would be played in New Zealand, but as that isn’t possible the Phoenix gave Macarthur their ‘home’ match.

“We haven’t played a home game back in New Zealand for such a long time so I think the boys should be used to it.

“Playing at their stadium I don’t think it changes anything.”

The Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Macarthur FC is scheduled to kick-off at Campbelltown Stadium in Sydney at 4:05pm AEDT (6:05pm) and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 7 and Paramount +.

Most recent meeting:
21 November 2021 – Macarthur FC 1 Wellington Phoenix 1

All-time head-to-head: Phoenix 1W, Macarthur 2W & 2D

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
Unavailable: 4. Scott WOOTTON (quad injury)