The Wellington Phoenix take on the Brisbane Roar tonight, in what could be the club’s most important match of the season.
A win keeps the Nix in the hunt for a second-place finish, while a loss would allow the Roar to overtake Wellington and slide into third place. If the Nix can remain in the top three, it will be their highest ever placing in the competition; having previously finished in fourth place three times over their 13-year history.
The two clubs have evenly split the wins over their past two meetings, with the Phoenix taking out the Round 7 match 2-1 for the their first win of the season with goals from Steven Taylor and Ulises Davila. Brisbane would have their revenge in Round 15, picking up a 1-0 win at Suncorp Stadium thanks to a second-half goal by substitute Dylan Wenzel-Halls.
Coach Ufuk Talay goes into the match against Brisbane with a full squad available, with the exception of Luke DeVere (suspension). While DeVere’s defensive presence will be missed, it opens the door for 25-year-old Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, who has impressed in limited minutes during this season re-start.
In giving minutes to several youngsters in the Nix squad – including Callan Elliot, Sam Sutton, Callum McCowatt and Ben Waine – Coach Ufuk Talay has shown he has a strong, dynamic bench that he can call upon when needed; as well as a solid midfield rotation in Matti Steinmann, Cameron Devlin, Alex Rufer and Reno Piscopo which is arguably the best in the Hyundai A-League.
And key scorers Ulises Davila (12 goals) and Gary Hooper (7 goals) will both will be in line for increased minutes tonight as they progress to full match fitness.
Meanwhile the Roar come into this meeting as winners in four of their last five meetings, the club’s sole loss being to Adelaide United in their first match of the season re-start. A win tonight would give Brisbane some extra breathing room against Perth Glory and Adelaide United, who are both chasing hard from the fifth and sixth spots - with an equal number of matches left to play.
Although the Roar are missing both their leading scorer in Roy O’Donovan – who signed with the Jets earlier this year – and high-profile coach Robbie Fowler, they’ll still have firepower to rely on in the shape of Scott McDonald.
McDonald has scored five goals in his last five matches, dating back to early March; the joint-most of any player in that period. The Phoenix will be keen to lock him down tonight in order to break this scoring streak, while also denying newcomer coach Warren Moon his second win of the season.
Both teams also rely on a strong passing game to set up their offense; Wellington is currently first in passing accuracy (83.6%) while Brisbane leads the competition in total passes with 12,625.
The Wellington Phoenix will take on fourth place Brisbane Roar tonight from 8pm, in a battle for third place.
Did you know?
·The First Thirty – The Phoenix have conceded just four goals within the opening half hour of games this season; fewer than any other team in the competition. They have also scored 12 of their own during this period.
·First Half Clean Sheets – The Phoenix have kept a first-half clean sheet in eight consecutive matches this season.
·Hooper on Target – Gary Hooper has connected on a phenomenal 50% of his goal attempts this season (7 makes from 14 tries, nine on target). All seven of his goals have been scored inside the box, and three have been on headers.
·Devlin Tackles – Cameron Devlin has attempted (67) and won (40) more tackles than any other player in the competition this season.
At a Glance:
Date: Wednesday 5 August 2020
Kick-off: 8pm NZT
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Sydney
Broadcast (NZ) Sky Sport 7
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 2.Liam McGING, 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 5.Matti STEINMANN, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 12.Brandon WILSON, 13.Liberato CACACE, 14.Alex RUFER, 16.Louis FENTON, 17.Callan ELLIOT, 21.Callum McCOWATT, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c), 30.Zac JONES (gk), 31.Ben WAINE, 32.Sam SUTTON, 88.Gary HOOPER
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI (promoted), 17.Callan ELLIOT (Promoted), 32.Sam SUTTON (Promoted)
Outs: 3.Luke DEVERE (Suspended – 1 Match)
Brisbane Roar FC squad: 1.Max CROCOMBE (gk), 2.Scott NEVILLE, 3.Corey BROWN, 4.Daniel BOWLES, 5.Tom ALDRED (c), 6.Macaulay GILLESPHEY, 7.Jai INGHAM, 8.Danny KIM, 10.Bradden INMAN, 12.Matthew RIDENTON, 14.George MELLS, 19.Jack HINGERT, 20.Aaron AMADI-HOLLOWAY, 21.Jamie YOUNG, 23.Dylan WENZEL-HALLS, 26.Jay O’SHEA, 27.Kai TREWIN, 29.Jordan COURTNEY-PERKINS, 30.Mirza MURATOVIC, 77.Scott MCDONALD
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 14.George MELLS (promoted), 30.Mirza MURATOVIC (promoted)
Unavailable: 22.Jake McGING (knee)