MATCH PREVIEW | Muscat Boost for Wellington Phoenix

The Wellington Phoenix has received a major boost ahead of its crucial Hyundai A-League game against Melbourne Heart at AAMI Stadium tonight with the news that Manny Muscat has signed a new two-year deal. Watch live on Sky Sport 4 at 9.30pm NZT.

The Wellington Phoenix has received a major boost ahead of its crucial Hyundai A-League game against Melbourne Heart at AAMI Stadium tonight with the news that Manny Muscat has signed a new two-year deal.

Now in his sixth year at the New Zealand club, Muscat has been sounded out by suitors from across the Tasman but once the Phoenix said they wanted him to stay there was no contest.

“There was interest from other clubs but I-ve always said the Phoenix comes first,” Muscat said as he prepared for tonight-s game.

“I am happy here and grateful for the chance the Phoenix gave me and for everything they have done for me over the last five years.

“The arrival of Ernie Merrick also made the decision easy as he has been a breath of fresh air.”

After starting the season in midfield Muscat has been moved to left back to help solidify the back line, and he is more than happy to make the switch.

“I am happy to play anywhere if it helps us get results,” Muscat said.

“The move has been made possible by the way Albert (Riera) is playing. He has come in and done a great job and I think me moving to left back has helped balance the team.”

One of the hardest workers on the field, Muscat puts just as much effort off it.

Already a qualified builder and a key member of the family building business, Muscat is also well on the way to becoming an electrical engineer.

“My brother Paul is a plumber and it helps if you have most jobs covered from within the company,” he says.

Merrick loves Muscat-s work ethic and is delighted to have him secured for another two years.

“This team has a number of leaders from the front and Manny is one of those,” Merrick said.

“He doesn-t take a step back from anything, and has the ability to predict play, to anticipate and to make crucial tackles. Manny rarely comes out of a 50-50 challenge without the ball.

“He also picks his time to go forward and set up chances for the strikers.

“Manny is important for the future of the club.

“We have now got a number of young players and he is one of the leadership group that will help them become first team players.

“There is no doubt about Manny-s character and commitment to the club and I can even see him staying for the next four years!”

Muscat is pleased that the Phoenix are playing four games in two weeks, even though it has meant two trips across the Tasman.

“We haven-t had the results we deserve from most games this season and it was good to get a win on Sunday,” he said.

“Now we have to back it up with a win tonight. The quick turnaround after the Mariners game meant we didn-t have chance to think about the chances we missed.

“If we keep playing the way we have been the results will come.”

The Wellington Phoenix take on the Melbourne Heart at AAMI Stadium tonight, Friday 27 December. Kick-off is 7.30pm local time, screen live on Sky Sport 4 at 9.30pm.

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Glen MOSS (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 5. Michael BOXALL, 7. Leo BERTOS, 9. Kenny CUNNINGHAM, 10. Stein HUYSEGEMS, 11. Jeremy BROCKIE, 12. Tyler BOYD, 13. Albert RIERA, 15. Jason HICKS, 16. Louis FENTON, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Lewis ITALIANO (GK), 21. Carlos HERNANDEZ, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c). In: 12. Tyler Boyd (promoted) Out: 8. Paul Ifill (Achilles injury) Unavailable: 8. Paul Ifill (ruptured Achilles, 8 to 12 months).

Melbourne Heart Squad: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 3. Robbie WIELAERT, 6. Patrick GERHARDT, 7. Iain RAMSAY, 8. Massimo MURDOCCA, 10. Harry KEWELL (C), 11.Michael MIFSUD, 14. Golgol MEBRAHTU, 15. David WILLIAMS 16. Aziz BEHICH, 17. Jason HOFFMAN, 18. David VRANKOVIC, 19. Ben GARUCCIO, 20. Tando VELAPHI (GK), 21. Stefan MAUK, 22. Nick KALMAR, 23. Mate DUGANDZIC, 25. Andrea MIGLIORINI (Two to be omitted) Ins: 21. Stefan MAUK (promoted), 18. David VRANKOVIC (promoted), 19. Ben GARUCCIO (promoted) Outs: 24. Patrick KISNORBO (suspended - one match) Unavailable: 4. Orlando ENGELAAR (Fractured tibia - 5-9 weeks), 13. Jonatan GERMANO (Calf - 5 weeks)