The Wellington Phoenix face Melbourne City FC at WIN Stadium tonight, in their first match-up this season. In fact it’s been 14 months since these two teams last met, with Wellington walking away victorious with a thrilling 1-0 win at Eden Park last February.
Wellington will be playing their third straight match at WIN Stadium, a venue at which they’ve had mixed results this season; having picked up their two most emphatic wins of the season there versus Melbourne Victory (4-1) and Perth Glory (3-0) before falling to second-placed Macarthur Bulls 0-1 in the last round.
Although Wellington has welcomed the eight-day gap between this match and their last one, which itself came on the tail-end of a gruelling stretch of three matches in seven days, the Nix carry several injury concerns into this match.
The early loss of Steven Taylor – due to a quad injury suffered in the 10th minute - hurt the Phoenix against Macarthur FC, and Taylor will remain out of the line-up for the next fortnight as a result. With Liam McGing and Luke DeVere also out with injury, this leaves Wellington short on experienced players at the centre back position; no doubt giving Joshua Laws and Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi an opportunity to showcase their talents.
The expected loss of Reno Piscopo tonight (injury) robs the Phoenix of one of their most creative attackers, with Wellington Phoenix Coach Ufuk Talay to decide whether to move Clayton Lewis into Piscopo’s spot – as he did against Macarthur – or go with another combination.
Coach Talay says that despite the injury, the players are coming into this match well-rested and looking forward to the challenge of facing Melbourne.
“It’s been a good week, the boys have prepared well this week – we gave them a couple of days off after our last game, so they’re come back in mentally and physically fresh and ready to go for the big challenge,” said Talay.
“The hardest thing for us this season is not having the consistency in that backline, it’s hurt us a lot with players coming in and out – and when we did have the same backline for two to three weeks in a row, we got some good results.
“Tim [Payne] has done a fantastic job, he’s played as a central defender before but I still think he’s a good right full-back – he’s explosive and can go up and down that line – but at this stage we’ve had to use him as a central defender.”
Melbourne City comes into this match off the back of a disheartening loss to Western United at home on Thursday, in which the visitors came from behind to get a 2-1 win – ending Melbourne’s impressive six match winning streak in the process.
Despite the loss, that winning streak has turned things around for Melbourne City after a slow start to the season. Led by the dynamic duo of Jamie Maclaren (12 goals, assists this season) and Craig Noone – first in the competition in both chances created (40) and crosses (117) – Melbourne scored 20 goals across these six matches and kept four clean sheets in a row to climb into fourth place on the ladder.
A few concerns exist for Melbourne coming into this match too, first and foremost the absence of captain Scott Jamieson due to injury; Jamieson’s presence was sorely missed in the team’s loss to Western United.
Fatigue will also be a factor for Melbourne, with the team playing on Thursday and only making one substitution during that match – in contrast to a relatively rested Wellington side. And discipline remains a concern for Melbourne too; they are the only team to pick up three red cards this season, losing two of those matches in the process.
Coach Talay says that despite their loss to Western United, Melbourne City are the in-form team in the competition at the moment.
“They’re a really fluid team, they play some good attacking football and they have some really good players who can hurt us.
“So for us, it’s a great opportunity for our players, and a great challenge to step up and showcase themselves and show what they can actually do – because I still believe we’re a great football team, we’ve played some really good football this season at time.
“Obviously a win tonight is important for us, we need to go on a run of winning three or four games to get ourselves back in the hunt again; so it’ll be a great game and we know how important this game is for us.”
The Wellington Phoenix face Melbourne City FC tonight at WIN Stadium, Wollongong from 7.10pm AEDT (9.10pm NZ Time).
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 5.James MCGARRY, 6.Tim PAYNE, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 13.Charles LOKOLI-NGOY, 14.Alex RUFER, 15.Mirza Muratovic, 16.Louis FENTON, 17.Tomer HEMED, 18.Ben WAINE, 19.Sam SUTTON, 20.Oliver SAIL, 21.Joshua LAWS, 23.Clayton LEWIS
**1-3 to be omitted**
Ins: 7.Reno PISCOPO (promoted), 15.Mirza Muratovic (promoted)
Outs: 27.Steven TAYLOR (injury, 1-2 weeks)
Unavailable: 2.Liam McGING (shoulder injury, 1-2 weeks), 3.Luke DEVERE (knee injury, 7 weeks)
Melbourne City FC squad: 1.Tom GLOVER (gk), 2.Scott GALLOWAY, 4.Nuno REIS, 7.Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 9.Jamie MACLAREN, 10.Florin BERENGUER-BOHRER, 11.Craig NOONE, 13.Nathaniel ATKINSON, 14.Naoki TSUBAKI, 15.Andrew NABBOUT, 16.Taras GOMULKA, 17.Stefan COLAKOVSKI, 18.Connor METCALFE, 19.Ben GARUCCIO, 20.Adrian LUNA, 22.Curtis GOOD, 23.Marco TILIO, 33.Matthew SUTTON (gk), 35.Raphael BORGES RODRIGUES, 36.Kerrin STOKES
**2-4 to be omitted**
In: 35.Raphael BORGES RODRIGUES (promoted), 36.Kerrin STOKES (promoted)
Unavailable: 3.Scott JAMIESON (calf), 8.Aiden O'NEILL (back)