The Wellington Phoenix will face ‘Distance Derby’ rivals Perth Glory tonight in the first Finals match of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season.
After securing the club’s highest ever placing in the competition by finishing third on the ladder, the Nix earnt the right to face sixth-placed Glory in the Elimination Finals, in what will be their third Finals appearance against this team; both previous matches have gone into extra time and each team have picked up a win apiece in that time.
Now in their ninth week in the New South Wales ‘bubble’, the Phoenix have arguably faced more challenges than any other club in this season re-start, and General Manager David Dome recently paid tribute to the players and staff over this time.
“What our players and the coaching staff in Sydney have gone through in this isolation environment has been extremely tough; separated from friends and family for over two months in order to reach the Finals - I can’t speak highly enough of their commitment and professionalism during this time.”
Wellington have used their past six matches in the re-start as a chance to both build up the fitness of key performers and to give minutes to some of the younger players – with Callan Elliot and Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi two players in the latter group who have shone over the past month.
Coach Ufuk Talay says that the players have had an intense week of training in preparation for their opponent, with a particular focus on finishing.
“We spoke with the players about enjoying what they’ve earnt – to play in finals football – and we’ve tried to work on things to improve on from our last game.
“To win games we need to score goals and although we create enough chances to score, it’s goals that win games – but I know what this team can do and what they’ve achieved this season, they go out there and show discipline and want to win; they’ve shown that from day one.”
In the absence of Gary Hooper (8 goals, 4 assists) due to injury, the Nix will rely on Ulises Dávila (12 goals, 5 assists this season), David Ball (6 goals, 4 assists) and Jaushua Sotirio (4 goals) – among others – to score the goals against Perth. They will also continue to ride the recent form of Liberato Cacace and Alex Rufer, who have both impressed in the season re-start, while goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic has continued to be the enforcer the team needs - with a string of highlight-reel saves to his name this season.
Meanwhile Perth come into this match missing several key players; Diego Castro (4 goals, 7 assists this season) and Nicholas D’Agostino (3 goals, 2 Assists) as well as defensive ace Gregory Wuthrich.
It’s been on the defensive side of the ball that Perth have regressed the most since the season re-start, giving up 14 goals over their past five matches – a far cry from earlier in the season where they only gave up two goals in total over a solid seven-game stretch (including six clean sheets during that time).
On the offensive side they will rely on Bruno Fornaroli (13 goals this season) as well as captain Neil Kilkenny (3 goals, 5 assists) and rising Kiwi defender Dane Ingham – who has scored twice in the season re-start, including one against Wellington in the Nix’s 2-1 win earlier this season.
Talay says that Perth represents a formidable opponent on Saturday night, despite their recent form.
“They’ve got some very experienced players who can hurt you up front, guys like Fornaroli; we’ll prepare the way we need to prepare, looking at how we can hurt them and how we can nullify them as well.
“It’ll be a good game – there’s no easy games in the Finals Series, so we’ll go out there with the right game plan to get the result.”
The Wellington Phoenix face off against Perth Glory for their Elimination Final match, at Bankwest Stadium on 22 August from 7pm NZT.
Did you know?
- Finals Experience – From Wellington Phoenix’s 20-man squad announced for tomorrow night, this could the first taste of A-League Finals football for 13 players in the squad; Cacace, Elliot, Fenton and Rufer and Taylor all played in last season’s Finals for the Nix, while DeVere (4), Sotirio (1) and Wilson (1) have all appeared in past Finals while playing for other clubs.
- First Thirty – The Nix have conceded just 4 goals in the first 30 minutes this A-League season; the fewest of any team. In contrast, Perth have conceded 11 goals in this same period.
At a Glance:
Date: Saturday 22 August 2020
Kick-off: 7pm NZT
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
Broadcast: (NZ) Sky Sport 7, (AUS) Fox Sports 507, Kayo Sports, MyFootballLive App.
For Overseas Broadcasters click here to find out how to watch: www.wellingtonphoenix.com/how-watch-your-nix
Wellington Phoenix Squad:
1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 2.Liam McGING, 3.Luke DEVERE, 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
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 2.Liam McGING (promoted), 16.Louis FENTON (promoted), 32.Sam SUTTON (promoted)
Outs: 23.Walter SCOTT (Not Selected)
Unavailable: 6.Tim PAYNE (Injured - hamstring), 88.Gary HOOPER (Injured – hamstring)
Perth Glory Squad:
2.Alex GRANT, 3.Jacob TRATT, 5.Ivan FRANJIC, 7.Joel CHIANESE, 8.James MEREDITH, 9.Bruno FORNAROLI, 13.Osama MALIK, 16.Tomislav MRCELA, 20.Jake BRIMMER, 21.Tarek ELRICH, 22.Vince LIA, 23.Dane INGHAM, 25.Carlo ARMIENTO, 27.JUANDE, 28.Gabriel POPOVIC, 29.Kristian POPOVIC, 33.Liam REDDY (gk), 50.Daniel MARGUSH (gk), 88.Neil KILKENNY (c), 61.Yianni PERKATIS
** 2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 2.Alex GRANT (returns from injury), 13.Osama MALIK (returns from injury)
Unavailable: 18.Nick D'AGOSTINO (injured - hamstring)