The Wellington Phoenix travel to Victoria for the first time this season, taking on bottom-of-the-table Melbourne Victory tonight at AAMI Park; with both teams set to play their second match in four days.
The Phoenix are coming off of a 2-2 draw against Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday, in which they boasted a new-look – and youthful – line-up for the first time this season.
With Oliver Sail, Liam McGing, Louis Fenton and Ben Waine all making their first starts of the season, the Nix scored early with a Mirza Muratovic strike in the 9th minute, holding on for the draw thanks to a late header from Fenton. Fans also got to see new signing Charles Lokoli-Ngoy in action in the second half, as well as the energy provided by sparkplug Cameron Devlin off the bench.
While awaiting the return of David Ball (suspension) and Tomer Hemed, Jaushua Sotirio and Luke DeVere from injury, the Phoenix will continue to rely on these young players to contribute, in addition to the continued play of their captain Ulises Davila – who enjoyed another solid performance against the Wanderers.
Wellington will also count on the continued form of Alex Rufer and Reno Piscopo, and may elect to continue their experiment of starting Tim Payne at centre back and Louis Fenton at right back – a combination which worked well against Western Sydney. Sail also showed plenty of promise in goal, making several top-shelf saves in his first start with Ufuk Talay at the helm.
Meanwhile the Melbourne Victory have endured a challenging season to date, sitting bottom of the table and riding a three-match losing streak – including a 1-0 loss against the Newcastle Jets on Sunday.
That defeat also saw three defenders – Adama Traore, Storm Roux and Nick Ansell – suffer injuries, leaving the Melbourne backline looking decidedly vulnerable against the Phoenix.
Scoring has been a concern for Melbourne, with the Victory failing to score a goal in four of its past six games, including their last two on the bounce; for the season they’ve registered only four goals in total over seven matches. And with 13 goals scored against them this season, Melbourne also has the highest negative goal differential (-8) in the competition.
But Victory are hoping to have Marco Rojas back in action again - following his one-game absence from a facial injury sustained against the Wanderers in Match Week 7 - and will rely on the presence of Leigh Broxham, Robbie Kruse and Jacob Brimmer in the line-up, with Brimmer scoring two of their four goals this season.
Wellington defender, Louis Fenton says that despite their record, Melbourne Victory are not a team the Phoenix will take lightly.
“With Victory, if you look at them on paper they’re a very strong team and they’ve got a lot of quality players like Marco [Rojas], Robbie Kruse and [Callum] McManaman up front,” says Fenton.
“If you look at that front four you go ‘wow, tough game’ but at the same time we’ve got a front four which I think is better – and we train against better players day in and day out.
“So we’ll go in there with the confidence that we can beat them, but at the same time we have to respect them too.”
The Wellington Phoenix take on Melbourne Victory tonight at AAMI Park from 7.05pm AEDT (9.05pm NZ Time).
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 2.Liam McGING, 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 5.James MCGARRY, 6.Tim PAYNE, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 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
Unavailable: 3.Luke DEVERE (knee injury, 10-12 weeks), 9.David BALL (suspension, 1 match), 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO (knee injury, 4 weeks), 17.Tomer HEMED (hamstring injury, 1 week)
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Matt ACTON (gk), 5.Ryan SHOTTON, 6.Leigh BROXHAM (c), 7.Callum McMANAMAN, 8.Jacob BUTTERFIELD, 9.Rudy GESTEDE, 10.Robbie KRUSE, 11. Ben FOLAMI, 13.Birkan KIRDAR, 14.Jay BARNETT, 15, Aaron ANDERSON, 16.Brandon LAUTON, 17.Elvis KAMSOBA, 19.Dylan RYAN, 20.Max CROCOMBE (gk), 22.Jacob BRIMMER, 23.Marco ROJAS, 25.Luis LAWRIE-LATTANZIO, 33.Dalibor MARKOVIC, 35.Zaydan BELLO
**2-4 to be omitted**
In: 15.Aaron ANDERSON (promoted), 16.Brandon LAUTON (promoted), 23.Marco ROJAS (return from injury), 33.Dalibor MARKOVIC (promoted), 35.Zaydan BELLO (promoted)
Out: 2.Storm ROUX (injured) 3.Adama TRAORE (injured) 4.Nicholas ANSELL (injured)