Men’s Match Preview: Wellington Phoenix vs. Western Sydney Wanderers

Head coach Ufuk Talay is looking for another positive response from the Wellington Phoenix in Sunday’s Isuzu UTE A-League match against Western Sydney Wanderers at Eden Park.

The Phoenix lost 4-0 to Central Coast Mariners in their last outing but have shown a great ability to bounce-back from heavy defeats this year.

“The group is very resilient. It’s been through a lot the last two seasons,” Talay told media on the eve of the match.

“We’ve been through a lot of hardship, and we’ve had a lot of up and down results and they’re very good in responding.

“I’m hoping that they show that response again tomorrow.”

The Nix are returning to Eden Park for the first time since May 30 last year, when more than 22 thousand fans cheered the team on to a thrilling 2-2 draw with Perth Glory.

“We’re hoping for the same crowd that we got last time we were up here.

“It was a great game against Perth last season with a great atmosphere and hopefully we can have that again tomorrow.”

New Zealand’s national stadium was in picture perfect condition for the team’s final training session on Saturday morning.

“I wish I could play [given] how immaculate the grass is and the stadium is,” Talay said.

“There’s a lot of history at this stadium so they’re very privileged to be able to play here.”

The Phoenix have never been beaten at Eden Park and the team are determined to make the most of their second and final regular season game in Aotearoa.

“We want to win all of our games that we play in New Zealand, whether we play in Auckland or back in Wellington.

“We try to play a certain brand of football. I think that’s very important for the brand of Wellington Phoenix itself.

“The boys are very excited. They’re glad to be at home, glad to be playing in front of their own fans so hopefully they take that energy from the crowd again and put it into the game.”

After a gruelling schedule of seven matches in 23 days, the Nix have had a full week to prepare for the Wanderers.

“It actually feels a little bit strange and a little bit weird.

“It feels like a very long week. We haven’t had a three day lead-in to a game in such a long time.”

The extra time has been needed to help freshen up the players for their final four games of the season.

“It’s been good to get some tactical stuff across to the group as well and they’ll be fresh and ready to go.

“We’ve had a good week to actually work on things and actually have more clarity for the players within their roles and responsibilities.”

The Phoenix currently occupy a place in the top six with 33 points from 22 matches. Talay has revised the number he believes the team needs to reach to make the finals.

“We said 37. 38 might be the target. We might need that extra point to get there.

“We’ve got four games to go and every game we want to go out there and try to win, but it’s very important if we can’t win, we don’t lose as well and keep ourselves in the race until the end.

“We’ll take it a game at a time. We’ve got the game tomorrow. Very important game for us that we need to get a result from and then we’ll look ahead to the Victory game.”

Wanderers sit 10th on the ladder, eight points behind the Phoenix after holding on to beat Newcastle Jets 3-2 on Wednesday night.
Ufuk Talay will be able to call on versatile defender Sam Sutton for Sunday’s match. Sutton re-joined the squad on Thursday evening after being forced to miss last week’s homecoming game because of COVID-19 protocols.

“He’s come back well. He’s feeling good so he’ll play some part in the game.”

Veteran striker Gary Hooper trained with the team for the first time in several weeks on Saturday, but won’t be available to play Western Sydney.

The Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney Wanderers is scheduled to kick-off at Eden Park in Auckland at 3:05pm NZT (1:05pm AEST) and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport Select & 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.

Most recent meeting:
3 December 2021 – Wellington Phoenix 0 Western Sydney Wanderers 2

All-time head-to-head: Phoenix 10W, Wanderers 13W & 5D.

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), 17. Callan ELLIOT (hamstring injury), 21. Joshua LAWS (knee injury), 23. Clayton LEWIS (ankle injury), 88. Gary HOOPER (calf injury)