An important 90 minutes ahead for the Wellington Phoenix before they can cast their minds forward to returning to New Zealand.
The Phoenix face bottom of the table Perth Glory in Sydney on Wednesday night. It’s their sixth Isuzu UTE A-League match in 19 days and last before the team flies to Wellington on Good Friday.
Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay has reminded his players they need to be focussed on the task at hand.
“The boys know that we still have a job to do tomorrow evening against Perth. It’s a very important game that we need to win,” Talay told media on Tuesday.
“Very important that we go out there with the right frame of mind to go out and do the job and get the three points.
“Once we get through that, hopefully get a good result and get three points, I think the boys will be absolutely buzzing to get on the flight back to New Zealand.”
The Glory are winless in their last 12 matches and were beaten 6-1 by Newcastle Jets on Sunday.
“These teams are probably harder to play against. Perth Glory have got nothing to lose,” Talay said.
“They’re playing a lot of young players, which have got a lot to gain for their futures.
“There’s no easy game in the A-League. Don’t look at the table, sometimes the table can be deceiving.
“If we get the three points it’ll be a massive boost for us coming back to New Zealand.”
Three points will also further entrench the Nix in the top six and boost their hopes of playing in the finals in May.
“I said earlier that I think 37 points will get us into the top six. That’s the aim at the moment to get to that number and if we get there earlier than expected then we’ll obviously push even harder to move up the table.”
Ufuk Talay made the “big decision” to change his formation for Saturday’s match against Western United, playing an extra defender at the expense of a forward following heavy back-to-back defeats to Melbourne City and Central Coast.
It worked in Ballarat, with the Phoenix coming away with a 4-1 win, but Talay is coy on whether he will employ the same formation against Perth.
“Formation is a starting point. The principles don’t really change whether we play a back five or a back four, they’re pretty much still the same. It’s just putting the right players in the right areas so they can be influential in the game.
“I don’t like having an extra player at the back. I’d rather have an extra player up the top that’s going to score us a goal and not let the opponent have the ball.
“I’ve worked very hard to move this team away from this underdog tag. We’re not underdogs, we can play football.
“Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we get it wrong, but we’ll always go out there to play the way that we want to play.”
Gael Sandoval started in a deeper midfield role against Western United and is likely to continue to deputise there in the absence of Alex Rufer and Clayton Lewis.
“We really didn’t want to use Gael as a six but unfortunately with our two starting sixes out we’ve had to adapt and he’s done well in the last game.
“At this stage he’ll continue in that role and we’ll see how he goes.”
While Rufer, Lewis and Gary Hooper remain side-lined, the Nix’s casualty ward is easing.
Young forward Oskar van Hattum is back training after recovering from a hamstring injury, while centre back Josh Laws is a chance of returning against the Mariners on Easter Sunday, having been out of action with an ankle injury.
“No more injuries. Everyone’s okay. Obviously, everyone’s just at different levels coming through their injured period and also through COVID. We’re still not at 100% but we have players available,” Talay said.
Left back James McGarry is also available for selection, after being forced to sit out the past two matches because he tested positive to COVID-19.
“He’s been symptom free the whole time he was in isolation.
“We’ll see how he goes through the session and then we’ll make a decision whether he’s required for the game.”
The Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory is scheduled to kick-off at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Sydney at 7:05pm AEST (9:05pm NZT) and will be broadcast LIVE and free-to-air on Prime and on Sky Sport 1 & 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.
Most recent meeting: 26 March 2022 – Wellington Phoenix 2 Perth Glory 1
All-time head-to-head: Phoenix 17W, Glory 20W & 9D.
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, 36. Riley BIDOIS, 38. Luis TOOMEY, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 43. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 88. Gary HOOPER
Unavailable: 14. Alex RUFER (season-ending knee injury), 21. Joshua LAWS (ankle injury), 23. Clayton LEWIS (ankle injury), 88. Gary HOOPER (calf injury)