The Wellington Phoenix aim to protect their top two position on the Hyundai A-League ladder tonight, when they take on Western Sydney Wanderers for the third time this season.
WATCH: Highlights of WELvADL
Although assured of a top six finish this season with three matches remaining, Coach Ufuk Talay and the Phoenix players have been vocal in saying their goal is a second place finish behind Sydney FC – meaning they would proceed directly into the Semi Final round.
If the team can achieve this feat it will be their highest placing in club history, and the fourth time that they’ve reached the Semi Finals, and Coach Talay says he wants to finish strong.
“We’ve got three games to go and everything is in our hands in terms of where we can finish on the table; then we’ll look at the Finals series – and for me with everyone playing in New South Wales there’s no real advantage of a home and away crowd.
“So we’ll go out there to win every game and hopefully once we reach the Finals series, we’ll have some good momentum leading into that.”
Coach Talay has indicated his line-up against Western Sydney will be approaching full strength, after playing a younger match day squad against Adelaide that featured starting debuts for Sam Sutton, Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi and Callan Elliot.
This should mean the return of Ulises Davila, David Ball, Cameron Devlin and Luke DeVere to the starting line-up, alongside a returning Matti Steinmann (suspension) – only the second time in this season re-start that all these key players have been available to take the field together.
In two home matches against the Wanderers this season, the Phoenix have come out victors on both occasions; the first a 2-1 win at Auckland’s Eden Park which saw Jaushua Sotirio score a memorable goal against his old team, and the second a dominating 2-0 win at Sky Stadium in January.
The match should see also more minutes for Wellington’s dynamic duo of Davila (12 goals, 5 assists) and Gary Hooper (7 goals, 4 assists), as they both continue to work their way back to full match fitness.
Sotirio, who scored his fourth goal of the season against Adelaide on Saturday, says he has enjoyed his time with the Phoenix in his first season.
“I feel like [the Phoenix] have bought the best out of my game since I’ve been here, both the coaching staff and the guys in the squad – hopefully I can contribute more and we can keep getting the wins.”
Sotirio says that he puts his solid play this season down to both Coach Talay’s belief in his players and the competition for minutes in the forward positions.
“Good healthy competition is always good, and Coach just gives us that confidence that we need as players and he brings the best out of us.”
Meanwhile the Wanderers will play their first match back at Bankwest Stadium since the season re-start, with a short three-day turnaround from their 1-all draw with Central Coast Mariners on Tuesday. With four matches remaining and in ninth place, the club still has a shot at making the top six – so they will be desperate to win against Wellington.
Western Sydney will rely on their star striker and captain, Mitchell Duke (11 goals this season) to deliver the goals, alongside fellow forward Simon Cox – who scored a late equaliser against the Mariners. They’ll also rely on goalkeeper Tristan Prendergast between the sticks - after Daniel Lopar elected to remain in Switzerland until next season – and the 26-year old impressed in his club debut against the Mariners on Tuesday.
The Wellington Phoenix will take on the Western Sydney Wanderers at Bankwest Stadium on Friday 31 July from 9.30pm NZ time.
At a Glance:
Date: Friday, 31 July 2020
Kick-off: 9.30pm NZT
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
Broadcast: (NZ) Sky Sport 7, (AUS) Fox Sports 507.
- Sky Sport NZ (Available in NZ Only) will broadcast every match from the remainder of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 Season. If you haven't got access to Sky Sport, you can access the games via SKY SPORT NOW. You can try a free 7-Day free trial here.
- FOX SPORTS in Australia will broadcast and stream every match from the remainder of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 Season and the Hyundai A-League 2020 Finals Series, on channel 507.
- Kayo Sports in Australia will stream all matches of the remainder of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 Season and Hyundai A-League 2020 Finals Series live at kayosports.com.au.
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Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 2.Liam McGING, 3.Luke DEVERE, 5.Matti STEINMANN, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 12.Brandon WILSON, 13.Liberato CACACE, 14.Alex RUFER, 16.Louis FENTON, 17.Callan ELLIOT, 21.Callum McCOWATT, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c), 30.Zac JONES (gk), 31.Ben WAINE, 32.Sam SUTTON, 88.Gary HOOPER
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 3.Luke DEVERE (promoted), 5.Matti STEINMANN (Return from Suspension), 8.Cameron DEVLIN (promoted), 9.David BALL (promoted)
Outs: 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI (Not Selected), 23.Walter SCOTT (Not Selected)
Unavailable: 6.Tim PAYNE (Suspended – 1 match), 20.Oliver SAIL (gk) (Suspended – 1 match)
Western Sydney Wanderers FC squad: 4.Dylan MCGOWAN, 5.Daniel GEORGIEVKSI, 6.Matthew JURMAN, 7.Mitchell DUKE (c), 8.Jordan O’DOHERTY, 9.Nicolai MULLER, 10.Simon COX, 11.Bruce KAMAU, 13.Tass MOURDOUKOUTAS, 16.Mathieu CORDIER, 17.Keanu BACCUS, 19.Pirmin SCHWEGLER, 22.Nick SULLIVAN, 27.Kwame YEBOAH, 28.Fabian MONGE, 33.Tate RUSSELL, 34.Patrick ZIEGLER, 35.Mohamed ADAM, 40.Nick SUMAN (GK), 50.Tristan PRENDERGAST (GK).
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 11.Bruce KAMAU (promoted), 28.Fabian MONGE (promoted)
Unavailable: 1.Daniel LOPAR (returned home), 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (shoulder), 29.Daniel WILMERING (knee), Radoslaw MAJEWSKI (knee)