Phoenix make one change for blockbuster

WELLINGTON Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert has made just one change to the squad that defeated the Newcastle Jets for Friday night’s blockbuster against Melbourne Victory in Wellington.

WELLINGTON Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert has made just one change to the squad that defeated the Newcastle Jets for Friday night-s blockbuster against Melbourne Victory in Wellington.

Karl Dodd will miss the match at Westpac Stadium, the in-form Phoenix centre back suspended for one game after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season in the 2-0 win against the Jets.

But Herbert has the luxury of bringing Andrew Durante straight into the lineup for the Friday night fiesta, meaning the Phoenix skipper will finally play his 50th Hyundai A-League match.

“It-s a straight swap with Andrew for Karl and the balance of the team remains the same. Jeremy Christie will come in on the bench and he-ll offer us some variety in the midfield.

“Consistency is again the key – it certainly has been for the past seven weeks – and our form has been really good.”

That consistency has seen the Phoenix pick up 13 points in the previous seven rounds, including recording back-to-back victories for the first time in the club-s short history (2-1 v Sydney FC and 2-0 v the Jets). They will seek to make it three on the trot when they host the Victory.

“Melbourne are also in good form and they-ve had three (wins) on the bounce,” Herbert said. “But there-s plenty of evidence to suggest they-re beatable and that-s what we-ll be working toward.”

Following analysis of the win against the Jets, the Phoenix coaching staff have demanded an improved delivery of quality ball to players up front.

“It-s not a case of changing things too much but it-s important we deliver the ball better into critical areas,” Herbert said. “The players understand – and you don-t have to be a rocket scientist to realise it – that there are places the ball has to be delivered into and we know we can tidy that area up.”

Emphasis has also gone on giving Brazilian star Fred – who will face his former teammates for the first time – more opportunity to weave his magic.

“I think this is a good game for Fred, against his old team and club where he had good memories. This will be only his second match for us but he-s making progress every week. He-s trained well and has become a lot more familiar with the guys around him, so that can only benefit us.”

Herbert will be hoping Fred can form a strike partnership with Shane Smeltz similar to the one the Brazilian had with Victory striker Archie Thompson, who on Friday night will play against the Phoenix for the first time this season.

Fred last played for the Victory in their historic 6-0 defeat of Adelaide United in the Hyundai A-League 2007 grand final. While most pundits agree Fred was the catalyst for the Victory-s championship-winning charge and that the side suffered significantly following the Brazilian-s departure to the MLS with DC United, Herbert said the Victory still possessed handy strike power.

“Certainly in the front third in Archie and Danny (Allsopp) they-ve got a combination that-s been together for a long time. Ney Fabiano-s improving with every game as well. They-ve got good pace and variety and they-re technically very good up there.

“On his day Archie can damage any team in the competition, but so can Shane Smeltz. It-s a matter of us doing what we do well and dealing with any threats they throw at us.”

Friday, November 28
Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Local kickoff 7.30pm NZDT (5.30pm AEDT)
Craig Zetter

Live and exclusive broadcast on Sky Sport 2 and FOX Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is Radio Network (Wellington) 1035AM and SEN (Melbourne) 1116AM. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.co.nz

Wellington Phoenix: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Jeremy CHRISTIE, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Glen MOSS (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 25. Manny MUSCAT, 27. FRED

In: Jeremy CHRISTIE (promoted)
Out: Karl DODD (suspended – 1 week)
Unavailable: Vince LIA (knee – season)

Melbourne Victory: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2. Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3. Michael THWAITE, 7. Matthew KEMP, 8. Grant BREBNER, 9. Danny ALLSOPP, 10. Archie THOMPSON, 11. NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Jose LUIS LOPEZ, 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 22.Nick WARD

In: Jose Luis LOPEZ (return from international duty)
Out: Leigh BROXHAM (omitted)
Unavailable: Evan BERGER (hamstring – 1 week), Nathan ELASI (groin – 1 week)

Head-to-head: All matches (played 4): Wellington Phoenix wins 0, Melbourne Victory wins 2 (2 draws). In Wellington (played 2). Wellington Phoenix wins 0, Melbourne Victory wins 1 (1 draw)