Phoenix on Reds alert

THERE is no denying that Saturday night’s showdown between Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United in Christchurch will be a pivotal one for the hosts.

THERE is no denying that Saturday night-s showdown between Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United in Christchurch will be a pivotal one for the hosts.

“Every match has been pivotal for us, from round one on,” said Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert. “As a team we acknowledge what this match means in the context of our playoff ambitions but ultimately it-s as important as our first, or our last, and that-s exactly how we-ll be treating it.”

The Phoenix head into Saturday night-s Hyundai A-League 2009/10 round 25 match at AMI Stadium in Christchurch firmly in the playoffs mix, in sixth position and four points clear of nearest rivals the Brisbane Roar and the Central Coast Mariners.

A win on Saturday night could ensure a first-ever appearance in the playoffs for the Phoenix. Such is the level of anticipation around the match that Herbert-s former All Whites captain, Steve Sumner, said earlier this week that the Phoenix had to “play like their lives depend on it”.

Herbert understood the sentiments of the man he played alongside at the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain.

“This is a very, very important match for us but we have to be careful that we don-t let our emotions cloud the job at hand. Every time we take the field, we-re there to try and win. This match against Adelaide will be no different - we want the three points. That those three points could seal us a place in the playoffs is an important consideration but we have to ensure we do things right first and foremost.”

Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante agreed.

“I guess the difference with this match is the level of expectation of the fans and the media. This is a huge game for us. To be honest, that heightened level of expectation is a good thing.

“We-re being talked about as a team that could be in the playoffs for the first time and as players we know that if we don-t achieve that ambition we-ll only have ourselves to blame.

“Here and now, though, the focus is on beating Adelaide. In that respect we-ll do exactly what we always do - play to the best of our ability and work for the win.”

Adelaide United, meanwhile, are almost certainly out of playoffs contention and will be seeking to spoil the Phoenix-s party in Christchurch. The Reds have had the wood on the Phoenix in the past, being the only Hyundai A-League team the Phoenix have failed to beat in eight previous encounters (four losses, four draws).

The Phoenix will also need to rebound from a disappointing two-match road trip to Australia, where they were beaten 2-0 by Perth Glory and 4-0 by the league-leading Melbourne Victory.

“That was a test of our character and determination,” said Herbert. “We know we are a good team - two poor results doesn-t change that - and I-ve been impressed by the resolve of the players to set things right. That starts on Saturday night. We-re likely to have a huge crowd there at AMI Stadium driving us on and everyone is pumped up for something special.”

The return of specialist left back Tony Lochhead is a welcome boost to a Phoenix squad that is for the most part unchanged from the midweek match against Melbourne. Brazilian midfielder Daniel has been included in a 16-man squad that will be trimmed by one on gameday.

Saturday night-s match at AMI Stadium in Christchurch kicks off at 7pm.

Saturday, January 30, 2010 Wellington Phoenix v Adelaide United AMI Stadium, Christchurch Kickoff: 7pm (5.00pm AEDT) Referee: Peter O'Leary

Live and exclusive broadcast on Sky Sport 1 and Fox Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is The Radio Network 1035 AM (Wellington).

Wellington Phoenix squad: 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. DIEGO, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Adrian CACERES, 15. Eugene DADI, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 40. Liam REDDY (gk). *one to be omitted*

In: DANIEL (promoted). Out: Costa BARBAROUSES (omitted). Unavailable: Mark PASTON (gk) (leg - season), Vince LIA (suspended - 1 week).

Adelaide United squad: 1. Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk), 2. Robert CORNTHWAITE, 4. Iain FYFE, 5. Daniel MULLEN, 7. Lucas PANTELIS, 8. Kristian SARKIES, 10. Adam HUGHES, 13. Travis DODD (c), 14. Scott JAMIESON, 15. Francesco MONTEROSSO, 16. Inseob SHIN, 17. Michael MARRONE, 18. Fabian BARBIERO, 19. Mathew LECKIE, 25. Evan KOSTOPOULOS, 40. Nick MUNRO (gk). *one to be omitted*

In: Lucas PANTELIS (returns from suspension), Kristian SARKIES (promoted), Francesco MONTEROSSO (promoted), Evan KOSTOPOULOS (promoted from youth team), Nick MUNRO (gk) (promoted from youth team). Out: Mark RUDAN (quad - 1 week), ALEMAO (hip - 1 week), CRISTIANO (knee - 1 week), Lloyd OWUSU (on trial in China), Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk) (groin - 1 week). Unavailable: Paul REID (groin - 2 weeks), Joe COSTA (knee - long term injury list), CASSIO (calf - 2 weeks).

Head-to-Head: Played 8: Wellington Phoenix wins 0, Adelaide United wins 4 (4 draws)