The Wellington Phoenix are looking forward to a re-match with Perth Glory this Friday 7th February, after suffering a narrow defeat to their Distance Derby rivals in Round 3 of this season.
That match was won by Perth on the back of early-game heroics from the trio of Bruno Fornaroli, Diego Castro and Christopher Ikonomidis – which was also memorable for dominant second-half effort by the Phoenix that included Ulises Davila’s penalty in extra time and Gary Hooper’s first action of the season for the Phoenix.
15 rounds later and the Glory and Phoenix sit third and fourth respectively on the Hyundai A-League ladder, with only two points separating the two teams. The Phoenix know that a win on Friday would see them leap over Perth and into third place, with the potential of advancing even higher if they can topple 2nd-placed Melbourne City at Eden Park the following weekend.
So it’s fair to say that this is one of the Phoenix’s most important away matches of the season, with the squad flying into Perth on Monday in order to adjust to the Perth heat and time difference, following their second bye week of the season.
Wellington boasts a strong squad for this match, with the recent return of Reno Piscopo from international duty with the Australian Under-23 team, and Matti’s Steinmann’s return from suspension. Add to this a match-fit David Ball and Alex Rufer – both having returned from recent injuries – and Coach Talay will have a bevy of dangerous options to choose from come match day.
Looking at the team statistics, the Phoenix squad is clicking on all cylinders at the moment as they ride a wave of fine form; the club currently sits first in pass accuracy (82.8%), second-best in goals conceded (18) and third in goal conversion rates (15%) – all demonstrating how much they dominate their opponents during large portions of their matches.
Meanwhile the Perth Glory are themselves riding an eight-match undefeated streak on the back of strong defensive teamwork, keeping six clean sheets during this time. Some of the credit for this can go to Swiss defender Greg Wuthrich, who recently claimed the Hyundai A-League Player of the Month for January.
On attack, Perth will continue to rely on the aforementioned duo of Fornaroli and Castro to score and set up goals; Castro is first in the competition with 6 assists and Fornaroli is fifth in goals scored with nine. They will miss the presence of Ikonomidis in their line-up, who will miss the rest of the season with a serious knee injury.
Did you know?
• The Phoenix have only lost one of their past 11 Hyundai A-League matches (W7, D3), and they haven’t trailed at halftime in any match during this period
• Both the Phoenix and the Glory have each conceded just four goals in the first half hour of games this season, the joint-fewest of all teams in the competition.
• It will be a reunion of sorts for players from both squads, with ex-Glory midfielder Brandon Wilson making his first trip back to Perth this season since signing with the Phoenix, and with ex-Phoenix player Vince Lia available to play for the Glory as well – Lia having played 197 matches with the Phoenix in his career.
At a Glance:
Date: Friday, 7th February 2020
Kick-off: 11.45pm NZT
Venue: HBF Park, Perth
Broadcast (NZ) Sky Sport 7
Wellington Phoenix Squad: 1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 2.Liam McGING, 3.Luke DEVERE, 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 5.Matti STEINMANN, 6.Tim PAYNE, 7. Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9. David Ball, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 12.Brandon Wilson, 13.Liberato CACACE, 14.Alex RUFER, 17.Callan Elliot, 20.Oliver SAIL (gk), 21.Callum MCCOWATT, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c), 31.Ben WAINE, 32.Sam SUTTON, 88. Gary HOOPER
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 2.Liam McGING (promoted), 5.Matti STEINMANN (Return from Suspension), 7. Reno PISCOPO (Return from International Duty)
Outs: 23.Walter SCOTT (Injury – Knee)
Unavailable: 16.Louis FENTON (Shoulder - Season)
Perth Glory squad: 1.Tando VELAPHI (gk), 2.Alex GRANT, 3.Jacob TRATT, 4.Gregory WUTHRICH, 5.Ivan FRANJIC, 7.Joel CHIANESE, 8.James MEREDITH, 9.Bruno FORNAROLI, 12.Kim SOO-BEOM, 13.Osama MALIK, 16.Tomislav MRCELA, 17.Diego CASTRO (c), 18.Nicholas D’AGOSTINO, 20.Jake BRIMMER, 21.Tarek ELRICH, 22.Vince LIA, 28.Gabriel POPOVIC, 29.Kristian POPOVIC, 33.Liam REDDY (gk), 88.Neil KILKENNY
**1-3 to be omitted**
Ins: 13.Osama MALIK (returns from injury), 17.Diego CASTRO (c) (promoted)
Outs: 19.Chris IKONOMIDIS (ACL - Season)
Unavailable: 6.Dino DJULBIC (ankle – indefinite), 19.Chris IKONOMIDIS (knee – season), 27.JUANDE (groin – 1 week)