Wellington Phoenix travel to Newcastle for their Round 5 clash against the Jets buoyed by two important inclusions, as skipper Andrew Durante and marquee Brazilian Gui Finkler continue to build fitness after adductor and knee injuries respectively.
Team staff might have been forgiven for thinking a black cat had walked under a ladder in the dressing room in recent weeks after Scott Galloway went off injured 25 minutes into Phoenix’s game against Brisbane last weekend, with the team in a commanding position at 3-0, causing another backline reschuffle.
Galloway will miss the trip to Newcastle, as will centre defender Marco Rossi, who came off injured against Melbourne City in Round 3, so it’s a welcome return for the A-League’s most capped defender, Durante, against his old club.
Issues at the back masked a blistering first-half performance from Phoenix’s attackers, whom head coach Darije Kalezić praised this week for their continued improvement in fashioning attacking chances over the first few rounds.
Speaking to media on Thursday the Dutchman called on his side to show both ‘courage’ and also ‘aggression’ to match a very physical Newcastle Jets side, reminding the players of their excellent performance against top of the table Melbourne City where they enjoyed 60% possession and completed almost 600 passes, while dictating match tempo.
With Newcastle a notoriously counter-attacking side so far this season, it could be a game of contrasting styles, and the Phoenix backline will have to be on their guard against a red-hot front three of Roy O’Donovan, Dimi Petratos and Andrew Nabbout.
Plenty of intriguing match ups, not least in the dugout as former Phoenix supremo Ernie Merrick faces his old club for the first time – watch it all on Sky Sport 1, Saturday 4 November, from 9.45pm.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Lewis ITALIANO (gk), 2.Daniel MULLEN, 4.Goran PARACKI, 6.Dylan FOX, 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Dario VIDOSIC, 9.Andrija KALUDJEROVIC, 10.Michael McGLINCHEY, 11.Hamish WATSON, 12.Adam PARKHOUSE, 14.Alex RUFER, 17.Ali ABBAS, 19.Thomas DOYLE, 21.Roy KRISHNA, 22.Andrew DURANTE, 23.Matthew RIDENTON, 24.Logan ROGERSON, 30.Keegan SMITH (gk)
**two to be omitted**
Ins: 14.Alex RUFER (promoted), 22.Andrew DURANTE (return from injury), 24.Logan ROGERSON (promoted)
Outs: 3.Scott GALLOWAY (hamstring – 1-2 weeks)
Unavailable: 13.Marco ROSSI (groin, 1 week)
Newcastle Jets squad: 1.Jack DUNCAN (gk), 3.Jason HOFFMAN, 4.Nigel BOOGAARD (c), 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI, 6.Steven UGARKOVIC, 7.Dimitri PETRATOS, 9.Roy O’DONOVAN, 10.Wayne BROWN, 12.Mario SHABOW, 13.Ivan VUJICA, 15.Andrew NABBOUT, 16.Nick COWBURN, 18.Johnny KOUTROUMBIS, 19.Kosta PETRATOS 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 22.Lachlan JACKSON, 24.Joe CHAMPNESS, 44.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY
**two to be omitted**
Ins: 18.Johnny KOUTROUMBIS (promoted), 19.Kosta PETRATOS (promoted), 22.Lachlan JACKSON (promoted)
Outs: 17.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI (hamstring – 4 weeks)
Unavailable: 8.Ronald VARGAS (ankle – indefinite)
Match details: Newcastle Jets v Wellington Phoenix, Macdonald Jones Stadium, 7.50pm (AEDT)
TV Coverage from 9.45pm (NZT) on Sky Sports 1