MATCH PREVIEW | Return of Key Players a Boost for Phoenix

Phoenix head coach Ernie Merrick hopes the return of key players Manny Muscat and Carlos Hernandez will kick start his team to its first win of the season against A-League leaders Brisbane Roar at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

Phoenix head coach Ernie Merrick hopes the return of key players Manny Muscat and Carlos Hernandez will kick start his team to its first win of the season against A-League leaders Brisbane Roar at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

Both players missed the loss to Perth Glory last week, Muscat through suspension and Hernandez with a leg muscle injury, and both were sorely missed.

Muscat is a definite starter at left back in place of youngster Reece Caira, while Hernandez will have a fitness test on Saturday morning.

There is also a doubt over the fitness of Paul Ifill and he is likely to start on the bench if fit.

“Paul looked good at training today but he has been struggling to see games out so if he is okay it will probably be off the bench,” Merrick said after the team trained at the stadium on Friday.

“Carlos came through the session well but we will have to wait and see how he pulls up in the morning.

“Albert Riera has also been struggling with a groin strain but I-m hopeful he will be available as well.”

When the teams met at the same ground in the first round Roar snatched the points with a last-minute goal after the Phoenix, playing without their New Zealand internationals, had matched them throughout the game.

Since then Brisbane have won six more games and lead the competition by five points while the Phoenix are still seeking their first win.

“The only time we have been outplayed was last week and that was through our own doing at times,” Merrick said.

“The standard of the league is consistent and any team can win on any given day.

“Brisbane are a tough team to beat but we have to be prepared to attack their back four and go for the win.

“We have to challenge them and we have the players to do that.”

Wellington Phoenix squad: Glen Moss, Louis Fenton, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante (captain), Manny Muscat, Vince Lia, Albert Riera, Kenny Cunningham, Jeremy Brockie, Carlos Hernandez, Jason Hicks, Stein Huysegems, Jason Hicks, Michael Boxall, Leo Bertos, Lewis Italiano.