The Wellington Phoenix travel to Western Australia for the first time this season - their first away game in nearly a month - taking on the Perth Glory tonight in their second ‘Distance Derby’ match-up.
The last time these two teams met back in Match Week 11, the Phoenix earned a rousing 3-0 victory at home thanks to first-half goals from Reno Piscopo and a David Ball, and a second-half finisher from Ben Waine.
Waine has been a talking point for the Phoenix this week, after his match-winning header – coming off a perfect cross from Sam Sutton in left-back - saw the Nix emerge victorious against Western United in the previous round. Although both youngsters – and Phoenix Academy products – excited fans in this match, Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay has been quick to ensure both players remain focused on the match ahead.
“Sutts came up to me after the game and was very humbled and was very appreciative with the opportunity that was given to him, but it’s only one game,” said Talay.
“Hopefully they build confidence with the game time that they get - they need to focus on what they’re doing on the park and all the other stuff will come as they play more.”
The Phoenix travel will travel with an 18-man squad for this match-up, with key players Tomer Hemed and Piscopo staying in Wollongong to recover from their injuries; defenders Te-Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, Liam McGing and Luke DeVere also on the injury list.
But the return of Steven Taylor – fresh off of a full week in training following his own injury – will be a relief for Wellington, with his experience providing a backline with a much-needed boost against a Perth squad with tons of offensive firepower.
Perth currently sits in tenth on the A-League ladder being Wellington, with both teams on 18 points but the Phoenix with the superior goal differential; the Nix having scored 26 goals and conceded the same, while Perth has scored 25 goals but conceded 29 – the latter the second-worst in the competition after Melbourne Victory.
Despite this, Perth remains dangerous on offense thanks to the play of forward Bruno Fornaroli – third in the competition with eight goals scored – and his partnership with Neil Kilkenny, who joint-leads the A-League with seven assists. Nicholas D’Agostino - a solid secondary threat with five goals scored in 10 matches – will sit this match out due to injury.
Perth will also be buoyed by the recent return of Joel Chianese to the club following a stint overseas; the 31-year-old forward subbing into Perth’s last match against Newcastle Jets in the 60th minute and immediately scoring a goal, securing a 1-1 draw for his side as a result.
Coach Talay says that the squad is prepared for a solid challenge against their Distance Derby rivals.
“It’s going to be a tough game, Perth have got a very good squad with some very good players, but for us it’s most important what we do – with and without the ball – so we’ll go there to try and get three points,” said Talay.
“And we just need to continue this momentum that we’ve built.”
Coach Talay knows that Perth is in a similar position to the Phoenix at this point of the season; sitting outside of the top six but with an opportunity to be playing Finals football in June – if they can win their remaining games.
“They [Perth] are playing at home, they drew their last game against Newcastle and they want to be in the top six as well – so it’ll be a difficult game, but like I said if we want to get anything out of our season we need to win our next few games.”
The Wellington Phoenix take on Perth Glory at HBF Park in Perth, tonight at 8.15pm AEDT (10.15pm NZT).
Did you know?
- Open Play: The Wellington Phoenix have scored 21 goals in open play this season; only Melbourne City (29 following their thrashing of Melbourne Victory last night) have scored more.
- Sail And Payne on Defence: Wellington Phoenix’s Oliver Sail has made five saves per game this season, the most of any goalkeeper, while defender Tim Payne has made more headed clearances (42) this season than any other player in the competition.
- Dominant Davila: Wellington Phoenix’s currently leads the team in goals (7), shots on target (16), Dribbles attempted (45) and fouls won (45); he is also tied for joint-first with 3 assists and is one of only three Nix players to play in every match this season (16 matches, shared with Payne and Clayton Lewis).
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 5.James MCGARRY, 6.Tim PAYNE, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 12.Matthew RIDENTON, 13.Charles LOKOLI-NGOY, 14.Alex RUFER, 15.Mirza MURATOVIC, 16.Louis FENTON, 18.Ben WAINE, 19.Sam SUTTON, 20.Oliver SAIL, 21.Joshua LAWS, 23.Clayton LEWIS, 27.Steven TAYLOR
**0-2 to be omitted**
Unavailable: 2.Liam McGING (shoulder - 1 week), 3.Luke DEVERE (knee - 4 weeks), 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI (Achilles - 2 weeks), 7.Reno PISCOPO (injury - 2 weeks), 17.Tomer HEMED (injury - 1 week)
Perth Glory squad: 1.Tando VELAPHI (gk), 2.Jason GERIA, 5.Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, 6.Osama MALIK, 7.Chris IKONOMIDIS, 8.Kosuke OTA, 9.Bruno FORNAROLI, 10.Andy KEOGH, 11.Joel CHIANESE, 15.Brandon WILSON, 17.Diego CASTRO, 19.Callum TIMMINS, 20.Carlo ARMIENTO, 22.Josh RAWLINS, 23.Dane INGHAM, 29.Darryl LACHMAN, 33.Liam REDDY (gk), 37.Riley WARLAND, 38.Ciaran BRAMWELL, 88.Neil KILKENNY
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 6.Osama MALIK (returns from injury), 17.Diego CASTRO (returns from injury), 23.Dane INGHAM (promoted)
Outs: 13.Luke BODNAR (not selected)
Unavailable: 4.Sebastian LANGKAMP (groin 1 week), 18.Nick D'AGOSTINO (hamstring - 1 week), 24.Daniel STYNES (groin – 2-3 weeks)