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

The Wellington Phoenix men face their “bogey club” at Nestrata Jubilee Stadium in Sydney tomorrow night with head coach Ufuk Talay searching for his first win against his former employers Sydney FC.

The two sides have met five times in the Isuzu UTE A-League since Talay took charge of the Phoenix in 2019, with the Sky Blues winning four of the five, while the other match finished in a 2-2 draw in Wellington almost two years ago.

“I’ve been motivated since day one to beat Sydney. I think it’s been our bogey club,” Talay told media on the eve of the match.

“The games that we’ve played against them have always been very good, very intense games. Pretty similar style of play so I think it will be a great intense game on Sunday.”

Sydney FC enter the fifth round A-League match in an unfamiliar position.

The five-time champions find themselves second to bottom on the ladder, with just two draws from their opening four matches.

The Sky Blues have now gone five games without a victory, their longest winless run since early 2016.

“I’m expecting them to come out all guns blazing for the first 10-15 minutes. They haven’t won as yet [but] they’re still a very experienced squad,” Talay said.

“I think they’re going to come and try to press us and nullify us from actually playing our game because they need to win.

“It’s going to be a difficult game. They are desperate. They probably haven’t been in this position for a long time.

“I’ve been in this [position] so I know how to get out of it.

“They need the points, they’re a big club [and] they’re used to being on the other side of the ladder so it’s going to be a challenge for them to get out of this situation.”

Despite being motivated to beat Sydney FC, Ufuk Talay says coming up against the club he played for and coached isn’t personal.

“I don’t think I’ve got anything to prove to them or anybody else at this stage. For me my focus is on Wellington Phoenix getting the three points and making the top six.

“For me it’s just another team that we’re playing this weekend, where we have an opportunity to win a game.”

The Phoenix suffered their heaviest defeat under Talay last week when they were beaten 4-0 by the Newcastle Jets, but they bounced back with a 4-1 win over Avondale FC in their FFA Cup match in Melbourne on Tuesday night.

He wants to see more of what his players showed against Avondale.

“We were quite aggressive in our press and I think that changed the mindset straight away from the first minute.

“I think we needed a lot more aggression and intensity and I think the boys gave us that against Avondale.”

Jaushua Sotirio scored two classy goals in the opening 15 minutes of the FFA Cup match and Talay says the challenge for Sotirio is to be consistently clinical in front of goal.

“If he scores goals like this I don’t think he’ll be staying long in the A-League.”

English forward Gary Hooper remains unavailable due to personal reasons, while left back James McGarry is in doubt because of a minor knee injury.

“We’ll…see how he goes at training and if he’s available for the game that’s a plus for us. If not we’ll manage him and make sure he’s right for the Cup game.”

The Wellington Phoenix’s fifth round Isuzu UTE A-League men’s match against Sydney FC at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Sydney is scheduled to kick-off at 6:45pm AEDT (8:45pm NZT) with the game LIVE on Sky Sport 2.

Most recent meeting:
8 February 2021 – Sydney FC 2 Wellington Phoenix 1

All-time head-to-head: Phoenix 13W, Sydney 25W & 5D.

Wellington Phoenix squad: 3. Matthew BOZINOVSKI, 5. James MCGARRY, 6. Tim PAYNE, 8. Ben OLD, 9. David BALL, 10. Reno PISCOPO, 11. Jaushua SOTIRIO, 12. Luka PRSO, 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, 31. Kurtis MOGG, 32. George OTT, 33. Finn SURMAN, 34. Jackson MANUEL, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 43. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 88. Gary HOOPER
Unavailable: 88. Gary HOOPER (personal reasons)