The maiden Liberty A-League meeting between the Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory has been dubbed the ‘suitcase derby’, with both sides having been forced to relocate to New South Wales.
The rivalry between Wellington and Perth has become known as the ‘distance derby’ due to the more than 5,000 kilometres that typically separates the two teams, who don’t have any natural local rivals.
But there’s minimal distance between the Phoenix and Glory now, with both sides having to live out of their suitcases in NSW.
Wellington have been in Wollongong since the start of November, while Perth were forced to leave Western Australia shortly after Christmas.
Phoenix coach Gemma Lewis says the Glory are “doing it pretty hard as well”.
“Their season has been turned upside down halfway through and they’ve had to relocate. And now the WA borders are looking at closing and they don’t know if they’re going to get back,” Lewis told media on Saturday afternoon.
“We can understand and empathise what they’re going through.
“It’s almost like that match-up between two teams that have got a lot of adversity going on, that are trying to improve on performance and improve on results whilst dealing with these things that they’re facing.”
Perth also had a similar experience to the Phoenix last season and only managed one draw from their 12 matches.
But now the Glory are on the cusp of the top four, with three wins and two draws to show for their endeavours halfway through the 2021/22 campaign.
However Lewis believes they’re “quite a good match-up” for her side.
“It’s one of those games that I look at and I think if our consistency is good, if we execute in the moments that are important in the game, we can win.
“In the opposite scale if we turn up and we’re inconsistent, have one of our more passive games they’ll probably put a decent amount of goals on us.
“I believe we can win it, I believe they’re a good match-up for us and their weaknesses are things we can exploit, but in the same way it could go one way or the other.
“We could end up losing three-nil or we could end up getting our first win.
“That makes me excited for the game because I think there’s everything up for grabs. I think if they turn up and we turn up then you’ve got yourself a game.”
Monday’s meeting with Perth will come just four days before the Phoenix are due to meet reigning champions Melbourne Victory and Gemma Lewis is keen to learn lessons from their last tight turnaround, which ended with a 5-0 defeat to Sydney FC.
“We have an extra day than what we had before and we saw how well that played out for us.
“There are things we have to work through from a rotation perspective, but we’re also limited in the number of players we’ve got.
“Kelli’s still not cleared to play and we’ve got a couple of other question marks that will be able to take part in the game but are carrying certain knocks so we have to look at them across the two games.”
Forward Kelli Brown will miss her third straight game with concussion, but Lewis is feeling “pretty positive” about her progress.
“She’s been back running [and] she’s back doing passing drills again. She’s actually ticking off her return to play quicker than we thought she would.”
Centre back Mackenzie Barry returned to training on Saturday after missing two matches with an ankle injury and will feature against Perth.
“We probably will utilise her for the game, but it will be for limited minutes.
“She got through today (Saturday) fine, so that’s positive. Touch wood she gets through tomorrow fine as well and we’d be pretty comfortable to have Mack back in the squad.”
Fellow defender Cushla Rue was in line to her make her debut, but she suffered an ankle injury at training on Saturday.
“It’s been really poor timing for her, but there’ll be more opportunities I know.”
The round nine Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory is scheduled to kick-off at Wanderers Football Park in Sydney at 6:35pm AEDT (8:35pm NZT)and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 1.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Lily ALFELD (gk) (c), 2. Saskia VOSPER, 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Jordan JASNOS, 6. Isabel GOMEZ, 7. Chloe KNOTT, 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Ava PRITCHARD, 10. Grace JALE, 11. Kelli BROWN, 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 13. Te Reremoana WALKER, 14. Cushla RUE, 15. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 16. Hannah JONES, 17. Talitha KRAMER, 18. Annabel MARTIN, 19. Charlotte LANCASTER, 20. Alyssa WHINHAM.
Unavailable: 11. Kelli BROWN (concussion)