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Jan 11, 2013   |  7:08PM AET

Phoenix Now Face An Improved Wanderers Unit

Phoenix Now Face An Improved Wanderers Unit

The NRMA Western Sydney Wanderers are expecting another tough battle at Westpac Stadium on Sunday but have warned Wellington Phoenix they face an improved outfit.

The NRMA Western Sydney Wanderers are expecting another tough battle at Westpac Stadium on Sunday but have warned Wellington Phoenix they face an improved outfit.

Coach Tony Popovic said that if the Wanderers continued to perform at the same level that they have in the past six matches since their last encounter they were quietly confident of getting a win.

In atrociously windy conditions at Westpac Stadium on December 2, the Phoenix jagged a 1-0 win courtesy of a mistake by usually rock-solid goalkeeper Ante Covic. However, although the Wanderers were well in the match for the duration, Wellington generated several good opportunities to score through Jeremy Brockie and Paul Ifill.

On Sunday, Ifill will be missing.

“Yeah just like you said, it-s never easy (in Wellington),” Popovic said.

“We experienced a loss over there recently and you know they are a very tough side to play and they-re very strong at home. So we expect a really tough match.

“But we also feel that if we can perform the way that we have in the last six games, we give ourselves an opportunity of getting a result there, or getting the win that we want.

“We go there quietly confident but certainly know that we-re in for very tough match.”

Popovic said the team took a lot of positives out of the 2-0 loss to the Central Coast Mariners last week.

“It was a very tight game with not much in it and they took their opportunities well and goals change games,” Popovic said.

“So you know that a goal changed the game so usually there-s just a small margin in big matches and we-re pleased that we played in a big game like that and we were so close.

“On another day Shinji (Ono) scores that goal and it-s 1-1.

“It gets cleared off the line, and credit to them they did that well, and then three minutes later we get a player sent off.

“So the game changed completely in that big three to four minutes.

“Overall we-re pleased with that performance and we know we-re very close but we have to keep producing that week in week out.”

Date: Sunday, January 13, 2013
Kick-off: 2.30pm AEDT, 4.30pm Local
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1HD and Sky Sports Highlights (LIVE HD).
Head-to-head:
Played: 1 – Wins: Wellington 1, Western Sydney 0
Previous encounter:
Wellington 1-0 Western Sydney, December 2, 2012
Form:
Past five matches:
Phoenix: LDWLL
Wanderers: WWDWL
The Game
The Phoenix will be relieved to be back on home turf after a couple of tough losses on the road. The poor run of form has seen Wellington drop to ninth place on the A-League ladder heading into a crucial period of the season.
While they are still without attacker Paul Ifill (injured) and Manny Muscat (suspended), youngster Tyler Boyd is available again and could come straight back into Ricki Herbert’s starting side.
Western Sydney are still sitting nicely in fourth spot despite their gritty 2-0 loss to league leaders Central Coast last weekend. It was just the Wanderers first defeat in their last six games.
Tony Popovic will have a few more players to choose from with skipper Michael Beauchamp, winger Youssouf Hersi (both suspended) and midfielder Mateo Poljak (injured) all back in the squad. Midfielder Jason Trifiro won’t make the trip across the Tasman though due to his red card against the Mariners. The last time these sides met an Ante Covic howler gifted the Phoenix a 1-0 win.
The Big Issue
Phoenix: Wellington have played some great football in the last few weeks but still come away with nothing. The reason for that has been some sloppy lapses of concentration in from their normally-resolute defence.
The Phoenix have built their success in recent seasons on the strength of their back four but they won’t figure in the finals this time around unless the likes of Andrew Durante, Ben Sigmund and Muscat can get the required steel back in their game.
Wanderers: Besides last week’s defeat, it’s been all good news for the Wanderers of late as they have emerged as genuine title contenders. And while the goals have been a little easier to come by recently, they are still lacking some depth in attack.
Dino Kresinger’s injury means Popovic has only had Joey Gibbs to lead the line in recent games. The Wanderers could face a big problem should Gibbs pick up a knock also. Club officials and coaching staff must really consider signing another striker during the January transfer window.
The Gamebreaker –
Michael Beauchamp: The Wanderers skipper might not seem like your typical gamebreaker but he certainly is vital to the fortunes of the A-League newcomers.
Beauchamp has missed two games so far this season – including last weekend’s clash with the Mariners – with the Wanderers losing both matches. He has formed a good combination in defence with Nikolai Topor-Stanley and if they can keep the likes of Jeremy Brockie, Louis Fenton and Ben Totori quiet then the visitors are a good chance of picking up their first win in New Zealand.
Prediction: Phoenix 1-1 Wanderers
The Phoenix may have got the money when these sides met in Wellington earlier this season but that was before the Wanderers hit their straps and went on a sensational unbeaten run.
Popovic’s side have looked stronger with every match and won’t have lost any confidence despite going down to the Central Coast last weekend. But the Phoenix are desperate and while they have suffered back-to-back defeats their form isn’t that bad. What does that all mean? Don’t be surprised if these two teams cancel each other out and share the spoils.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark Paston (GK), 3. Tony Lochhead, 6. Alex Smith, 7. Leo Bertos, 9. Benjamin Totori, 10. Stein Huysegems, 11. Jeremy Brockie, 12. Tyler Boyd, 15. Cameron Lindsay, 16. Louis Fenton, 17. Vince Lia, 18. Ben Sigmund, 21. Dani Sanchez, 22. Andrew Durante (C), 30. Griffin McMaster (GK)
In: 12. Tyler Boyd (returns from suspension)
Out: Michael Boxall (omitted)
Unavailable: 8. Paul Ifill (ankle injury 3-4 weeks), Manny Muscat (suspended – 1 week)
Western Sydney Wanderers squad: 1. Ante Covic (GK), 2. Shannon Cole, 3. Adam D-Apuzo, 4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 5. Michael Beauchamp, 6. Jerome Polenz, 7. Labinot Haliti, 8. Mateo Poljak, 10. Aaron Mooy 11. Tarek Elrich, 13. Joey Gibbs, 14. Kwabena Appiah-Kubi, 15. Reece Caira, 17. Youssouf Hersi, 18. Iacopo La Rocca, 19. Mark Bridge, 20. Jerrad Tyson (GK), 21. Shinji Ono
*three to be omitted
In: Youssouf Hersi (returns from suspension), Michael Beauchamp (returns from suspension), Adam D-Apuzzo (promoted), Mateo Poljak (Promoted)
Out: 23. Jason Trifiro (suspended – 1 match)
Unavailable: Tahj Minniecon (foot – indefinite), Dino Kresinger (knee 2-3 weeks)