Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick won’t name his squad to face Adelaide United at Auckland’s Eden Park on Saturday night till Stein Huysegems and Leo Bertos undergo fitness tests on match day.
Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick won-t name his squad to face Adelaide United at Auckland-s Eden Park on Saturday night till Stein Huysegems and Leo Bertos undergo fitness tests on match day.
Huysegems, the A-League-s leading scorer, has a slight calf problem while Bertos has a groin strain.
“Stein has some tightness and that can be a precursor to a strain so we have to be careful with him,” Merrick said.
“We will give him every chance to play so there will be no decision till late tomorrow.”
The good news is that Costa Rican internationals Carlos Hernandez and Kenny Cuinningham have returned from international duty fit and well.
“Ricki (Herbert) left me with a tremendous core of a group and the two Costa Ricans add a bit more flair. Carlos can be hard to handle while Kenny is playing really well.”
The Phoenix squad has been in Auckland since Wednesday and on Friday had their final training run on Eden Park with Merrick delighted with the venue and city.
“Eden Park is fantastic and the hospitality we have received in Auckland is first class,” Merrick said.
“We might be playing out of Wellington but this will definitely feel like a home game.”
With 12,000 tickets pre-sold a big crowd is expected and the club is encouraging fans to pre-purchase tickets and thereby avoid the long queues experienced when the Phoenix played at Eden Park two seasons ago.
Merrick believes Auckland fans can look forward to an end-to-end open match.
“Adelaide seem similar to ourselves in that they have a new coach, have changed their style and are playing good football,” he said.
“They-ve had a good run, going seven games undefeated and have been playing an attacking style similar to ours.
Merrick is also aware of how important the next three games, against Adelaide, Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Heart, are to the Phoenix- playoff chances.
“Those games are against teams in the same area of the ladder as us and we are all fighting for a place in the top six,” he said.
“Effectively each of those games is worth double points.”
The game kicks off at 7.30 pm. Celebrity Curtain Raiser kicks off at 5.45pm.