The Wellington Phoenix return to Auckland for the second time this season, taking on second-placed Melbourne City at Eden Park on Saturday 15 February.
This week’s clash against the Phoenix is Melbourne City’s only trip across the ditch this season, and their first ever match played at Eden Park – a venue where Wellington remains unbeaten (3W, 3D), dating all the way back to 2011.
This is a critical match for the Phoenix as they move forward from a contentious loss in Perth last round, but one that was buoyed by the scoring form of Gary Hooper and the welcome return of an in-form Reno Piscopo.
The Phoenix remains in solid form over the past two months, unbeaten in nine of its past 11 matches; even while dealing with a revolving door of players due to injury, suspension and international duty. With Hooper finding his form and Ulises Davila continuing to find ways to put the ball in the back of the net, the squad continues to gel into a dangerous attacking unit as the season progresses.
However, the Wellington Phoenix know that while they currently sit in 4th place on the ladder, Adelaide, Brisbane and Western United are all within striking range below them – making this match an important one if they are to remain in the top six. It also gives them an opportunity to close the gap on Melbourne City, who sits six points in front - but with Wellington having a game in hand.
Meanwhile Melbourne City sit in second place, but with only three wins in their past eight matches (3L, 2D) as they struggle with consistency this season. The club has won only four of their last 15 Hyundai A-League games played outside Melbourne (D1, L10) and are winless in their last three such fixtures (D1, L2). Most tellingly, Melbourne City has lost its last three matches played in New Zealand.
The team is missing defender Harrison Delbridge – suspended after picking up his third red card of the season – but will have the dangerous combo of Jamie Maclaren and Craig Noone on hand, who have scored 18 goals between them this season. The club ranks first in passes and second in both goals scored and shots at goal in the Hyundai A-League, demonstrating a solid offense that is one of the league’s best.
Did you know?
- Wellington has a passing accuracy of 79.7% through the middle third of the pitch this season, the highest of any team in the competition; Melbourne City (79.4%) are ranked a close second in this category.
- Gary Hooper has a shot conversion rate of 36% (including blocks) this Hyundai A-League season, the highest of any player to have made at least 10 total shots (including blocks).
- This match reunites five members of the Australian U-23 men's national football team that recently booked their place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, with Wellington’s Piscopo joining Melbourne City’s Ramy Najjarine, Connor Metcalfe, Denis Genreau and Tom Glover on the pitch.
At a Glance:
Date: Saturday, 15th February 2020
Kick-off: 7pm NZT
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
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, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9. David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 12. Brandan 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 (Promoted), 17.Callan ELLIOT (Promoted), 31.Ben WAINE (Promoted)
Outs: 6.Tim PAYNE (Suspended – one match)
Unavailable: 16.Louis FENTON (Shoulder - season), 23.Walter SCOTT (Injury – Knee)
Melbourne City FC Squad:
1.Tom GLOVER (gk), 2.Scott GALLOWAY, 3.Scott JAMIESON, 6.Josh BRILLANTE, 7.Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 9.Jamie MACLAREN, 10.Florin BERENGUER 11.Craig NOONE, 13.Nathaniel ATKINSON, 14.Markel SUSAETA, 17.Denis GENREAU, 19.Lachlan WALES, 20.Adrian LUNA, 21.Ramy NAJJARINE, 22.Curtis GOOD, 23.Dean BOUZANIS (gk), 30.Moudi NAJJAR, 36.Kerrin STOKES, 34.Connor METCALFE, 49.Stefan COLAKOVSKI
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 23.Dean BOUZANIS (returns to squad), 30.Moudi NAJJAR (promoted), 34.Connor METCALFE (returns from injury)
Outs: 46.Joe GAUCI (omitted)
Unavailable: 4.Harrison DELBRIDGE (suspended - 1 week), 5.Jack HENDRY (knee), 40.Richard WINDBICHLER (hamstring)