The Wellington Phoenix head into tonight’s match against the Newcastle Jets with one thing on their mind – picking up the three points needed to cement their place in third on the Hyundai A-League table, in the process keeping their hopes of a top two finish alive.
This will be the last regular season match for the Nix before they begin Finals football. The club sits third on the ladder with 41 points, just three points behind Melbourne City and already assured of a place in the Finals for the second straight season. A victory against the Jets would lock in the club’s highest placing in its 13 year history, while also ensuring that rivals Western United – currently in sixth place with two matches left – are unable to unseat the Phoenix from this position.
This is where things get interesting for the Nix; if Western United were to win their remaining two matches, this in turn provides Wellington with a chance to vault into second place if they beat the Jets tonight - as Mark Rudan’s squad plays its final match against Melbourne City on the last day of the regular season.
In that situation, the Nix would have to rely on a superior goal differential to leapfrog Melbourne City into second and lock in a spot in the semi-finals. So in addition to the win, the more goals the Phoenix can score tonight against the Jets, the better.
They’ll have to do so without the services of star forward Gary Hooper, who has been ruled out of this match with a hamstring injury which he suffered while scoring against Brisbane Roar last week; that goal on the 82 minute mark allowing Wellington to secure a 1-all draw.
In the absence of Hooper, the Nix will rely on Ulises Davila (12 goals), David Ball (6 goals) and Jaushua Sotirio (4 goals) to provide a much-needed scoring punch. Liberato Cacace, Reno Piscopo and youngsters Callum McCowatt and Ben Waine have also shown themselves to be more than capable attacking threats, giving Wellington the firepower needed to secure the victory.
Wellington will also welcome the return of defender Luke Devere from a one-match suspension, but will continue to be without Tim Payne who is dealing with his own hamstring injury.
Although the Newcastle Jets sit in 9th place and are out of Finals contention, they still present a solid threat to the Phoenix tonight. The Jets have noticeably improved since Carl Robinson took over as coach earlier this year, and they remain unbeaten - with 2 wins and a draw - since the season resumed last month, including upset wins over Sydney FC and Western United.
It’s been 11 days since the Jets last played a match, and although their squad will be without Joe Ledley and Matt Millar due to hamstring injuries, the Nix will still have to contend with the always-dangerous Roy O’Donovan – who has scored four goals this season and will be looking to register his 50th A-League goal tonight.
Defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley will also figure to be his usual towering defensive presence for the Jets, as well as a capable goal scorer (three this season).
The last time these two teams faced each other this season, the Phoenix came away with a 2-1 victory at Sky Stadium in January. That match saw goals scored by Sotirio and Davila for the Nix, with Abdiel Arroyo picking up a lone goal for the Jets.
The Wellington Phoenix will take on the Newcastle Jets in their final match of the regular season, at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on 13th August from 9.30pm NZ time.
Did you know?
·Goals Aplenty – The Phoenix have won their last two A-League matches against the Jets by a combined score of 6-2; the last time they won more in succession against them was a six-game stretch from 2010 to 2012.
·Second Half Brilliance – No team has scored more second-half goals this A-League season than Wellington Phoenix; their 23 goals scored is the same amount of goals that the Jets have conceded over that same time.
·Accurate Steinmann – Phoenix midfielder Matti Steinmann has a passing accuracy of 77% from his 69 long passes this A-League season, the highest of any player to have attempted at least 20 long passes this campaign.
At a Glance:
Date: Thursday 13 August 2020
Kick-off: 7.30 pm AEST, 9.30pm NZT
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney
Broadcast: Fox Sport, Kayo Sports, MyFootballLive App (Aus) | Sky Sport 7, Sky Sport Now (NZ)
International Broadcasters can be found here.
Newcastle Jets FC Squad: 2.Mickey NEILL, 3.Jason HOFFMAN, 4.Nigel BOOGAARD (c), 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI, 6.Steven UGARKOVIC, 7.Roy O’DONOVAN, 9.Abdiel ARROYO, 10.Dimi PETRATOS, 11.Nick FITZGERALD, 12.Lucas MAURAGIS, 18.Johnny KOUTROUMBIS, 19.Kosta PETRATOS, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (gk), 21.Bernie IBINI, 28.Patrick LANGLOIS, 29.Connor O’TOOLE, 31.Maki PETRATOS, 32.Angus THURGATE, 40.Noah JAMES (gk), 44.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 2.Mickey NEILL (promoted), 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI (promoted), 28.Pat LANGLOIS (promoted)
Outs: 17.Joe LEDLEY (injured – hamstring)
Unavailable: 16.Matt MILLAR (hamstring), 22.Lachlan JACKSON (knee – indefinite)
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 2.Liam McGING, 3.Luke DEVERE, 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 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, 23.Walter SCOTT, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c), 30.Zac JONES (gk), 31.Ben WAINE
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 3.Luke DEVERE (return from suspension), 16.Louis FENTON (promoted), 23.Walter SCOTT (promoted)
Outs: 88.Gary HOOPER (Injured – hamstring)
Unavailable: 6.Tim PAYNE (Injured - hamstring)