Durante seeks Sydney sweep

WELLINGTON Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante smiles wryly when reminded of an interesting statistic from his side’s season to date – he did not play of role in both of his side’s wins against Sydney FC this season.

WELLINGTON Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante smiles wryly when reminded of an interesting statistic from his side-s season to date - he did not play of role in both of his side-s wins against Sydney FC this season.

Durante missed the 2-1 win in round six at Westpac Stadium with injury and was also ruled out of the 2-1 win at the Sydney Football Stadium in round 11.

But the captain gets the chance to be part of a Phoenix clean sweep of the Hyundai A-League-s glamour boys this weekend, with nuggety central defender Ben Sigmund ruled out of Sunday-s match at the SFS with a nagging groin injury.

Durante also missed last weekend-s 3-0 win against the Newcastle Jets through suspension and is fired up for Sunday-s crucial match with the Phoenix gunning for their first appearance in the playoffs.

“Missing those two wins against Sydney doesn-t mean anything,” Durante said with a chuckle.

“It doesn-t bother me at all and I don-t let things like that play on my mind. I-ve played the majority of the season and I-ve done my job to the best of my ability and that-s exactly what I-ll be doing again on Sunday.

“It-s a great record that we-ve beaten Sydney so many times (three wins, a draw and a loss from five matches) but we-ll have to be up for this one because Sydney will be desperate not to lose five on the trot.”

A win on Sunday will well and truly keep the Phoenix-s playoff hopes alive with two matches to come - including what is shaping as a massive, season-defining match against Adelaide United at Westpac Stadium the following weekend.

“If we-re serious about making the top-four then getting three points against Sydney is crucial. We don-t want to look to far ahead but the Adelaide game at home will be huge for us because if we can get those two wins then I believe we-ll get into the playoffs.”

With Sydney FC-s season almost certainly over in terms of the playoffs, the wounded Sky Blues will be a dangerous proposition on Sunday.

“Teams that have nothing to play for are probably the most dangerous ones because they-ll open up and have no fear, given that they-ve got nothing to lose,” Durante said.

“If they do come at us we-ve got to weather the storm and if we pinch a goal their heads will drop again and we-ll be able to take it to them.”

As well as Durante, midfielder Jon McKain has also returned to the Phoenix squad, with Costa Barbarouses dropping out.

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert said the addition of McKain had caused plenty of thought regarding the midfield combination against Sydney.

“It-s a tough one. We played Tim Brown, Michael Ferrante and Jon when we beat them 2-1 over there and they were excellent. The combination we used last weekend of Daniel, Michael and Tim was also very good in the second half, so there-s some interesting things to consider.”

Where there is some tinkering to be done in midfield, Herbert is happy with his settled strike force - Shane Smeltz, Leo Bertos and Troy Hearfield.

“While it has taken a little bit of time that partnership is starting to bear fruit. Their understanding together is good, things are flowing and it-s coming at the right time of the season for us.”

Like Durante, Herbert isn-t reading too much into the Phoenix-s previous good results against Sydney FC.

“Psychologically it does give you a bit of an edge but that-s about where it stops for me. If the application isn-t there we won-t win. It-s all going to come down to what we do this weekend.”

Sunday, January 11 Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix Sydney Football Stadium Local kickoff: 6pm AEDT (8pm NZDT) Referee: Ben Williams

Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1 and Sky Sport 3. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is Radio Network (Wellington) 1035AM.

Sydney FC squad: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Iain FYFE, 7. Rob MIDDLEBY, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 10. Steve CORICA (c), 12. Shannon COLE, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 15. Terry MCFLYNN, 19. Mark BRIDGE, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 29. Beau BUSCH, 31. Antony GOLEC, 32. Brendan GAN, 34. Rhyan GRANT, 35. Kofi DANNING.

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Jeremy CHRISTIE, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. Karl DODD, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 15. Adam KWASNIK, 20. Glen MOSS (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE, 25. Manny MUSCAT.

*Head-to-head: All matches (played 5): Sydney FC wins 1, Wellington Phoenix wins 3 (1 draw). In Sydney (played 2): Sydney FC wins 0, Wellington Phoenix wins 2 (0 draws).