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

Western Sydney Wanderers are the next side attempting to put a stop to the Wellington Phoenix’s club record unbeaten run in the Isuzu UTE A-League men’s competition.

The Phoenix’s 2-1 win over the Central Coast Mariners last Saturday was the club’s 13th match without defeat, stretching back to April.

The seven wins and six draws are remarkable given only two of those matches were played in New Zealand.

Tonight the Nix are back at their home away from home, WIN Stadium in Wollongong, where they have won their last three matches.

Wellington Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay is proud of the unbeaten run, but says it isn’t a focus.

“For me I don’t look at those stats. We just go out there and try and play the game and get the best result possible for the team and that’s to win,” Talay told media on the eve of the match against the Wanderers.

“It’s a nice streak that we’re on but it’s most important we win our games and continue on our journey.”

But he acknowledges the unbeaten run does wonders for his young squad.

“Doing well in the sense of getting a win last week and a draw the week before builds a lot confidence within the players and that’s very important in football.”

A stat Talay is interested in is clean sheets.

“Not happy that we’ve conceded goals in both games.

“The goals that we’ve conceded…one was a set piece and one was our own mistake that led to the goal so if we can nullify the little mistakes that we make we give us the best chance to win the game.”

The Phoenix enter round three second equal on the table, two points above Western Sydney, who have opened their season with home draws against Sydney FC and the Newcastle Jets.

“Obviously they drew their last two games, but it’s still early in the season and teams are trying to find their feet at the same time.

“It’s going to be a difficult game. They’ve got players that can hurt you, but for me the focus is what we do and how we do it.

“I think they’re a good team, they’ve got some very good individuals. I think they really recruited well.”

One of the Wanderers’ recruits is Israeli forward Tomer Hemed, who scored 11 goals for the Phoenix last season.

Hemed has been replaced by Englishman Gary Hooper, who has scored goals in Wellington’s opening two games.

“I don’t really care what Tomer does,” Talay said.

“He’s at Western Sydney Wanderers. For us it’s to stop him from scoring and on the other side Hoops scoring more often.”

Ufuk Talay has just one injury concern ahead of the match, with forward Jaushua Sotirio “touch and go” having rolled his ankle after scoring what was ultimately the match-winner against Central Coast.

Right back Callan Elliot has been cleared to play, despite suffering a shoulder injury against the Mariners.

“It’s a similar injury to what Reno had last year towards the back end of the season. He’ll still be sore but he’s put his hand up to play.”

Left back Sam Sutton is available for selection after missing the opening two matches with a knee injury and Talay is also able to call on academy players Finn Surman, Jackson Manuel and Oskar van Hattum.

The trio have joined the Phoenix in New South Wales as the team faces a potentially hectic schedule over the next two months, depending on their progression through the FFA Cup, which starts with a round of 32 match against Western United on Tuesday.

The third round A-League men’s match between the Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney Wanderers is scheduled to kick-off at WIN Stadium in Wollongong at 7:45pm AEDT (9:45pm NZT), with the game broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 2 and free-to-air on Prime.

Most recent meeting: 26 May 2021 – Western Sydney Wanderers 1 Wellington Phoenix 2

All-time head-to-head: Phoenix 10W, Wanderers 14W & 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