Wellington Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay has his sights set on taking three points from Thursday night’s Isuzu UTE A-League match against Western Sydney Wanderers.
A win at CommBank Stadium will secure the Phoenix a place in the finals for the seventh time in the club’s history.
A draw or a defeat will leave the Nix needing Sydney FC to drop points in one of their remaining games, or a result against reigning champions Melbourne City in their final regular season match at AAMI Park on Monday night.
“It’s in our hands at the moment,” Talay told media on Wednesday.
“We’ve got a very important game tomorrow against Western Sydney, where we can hopefully get a result and cement our spot in the top six.
“It’s very important that we do the job that we need to do to get ourselves in the position that we want to be in.”
Talay doesn’t want to have to rely on Sydney dropping points against either Melbourne City on Saturday night or Brisbane Roar in the final game of the season on Tuesday.
“For me that’s their problem. That’s their issue what they need to do and how to get the results from those two games.
“For us our focus is on what we need to do. The good thing is everything is in our hands.
“Fingers crossed that we get a good result tomorrow evening and we don’t leave it for the last game of the season and we don’t rely on other teams losing for us to make the top six.”
Talay: ‘It’s not going to be an easy game’
Two points from the Phoenix’s final two regular season games will be enough to clinch the sixth and final playoff berth, regardless of the Sky Blues’ results, but Talay wants a finals place locked away as soon as possible.
“There are two games to go and we just need to get a result.
“We like to play a certain brand of football and if we can do that at the same time and get the win that’s very important, but for us the main goal is to get three points tomorrow evening.”
Wanderers sit 10th on the ladder and are out of finals contention, but will consider themselves unlucky to have been beaten 1-0 at Eden Park last month.
“They’re a very good side. They’ve got some very good players,” Talay said.
“I’m sure they’re going to come out to play the game to win, regardless of where they sit on the table. I’m thinking that they probably want to finish a lot higher than where they currently are.
“It’s not going to be an easy game. It was a tough game in Auckland. We got the result that we needed, which was the three points.
“It’s going to be a familiar game where it will be pretty tight and at the end of the day we need to do a job.”
Jaushua Sotirio, Clayton Lewis, Josh Laws and Callan Elliot remain side-lined with injuries, but Ufuk Talay will be able to call on David Ball to play Western Sydney.
The veteran forward sat out last week’s match against Melbourne Victory after playing four straight matches with a toe injury.
“He’s feeling good which is a great thing. I think the rest has helped the injury on his toe so he’ll be available to be involved against Western Sydney tomorrow, which is a positive sign for us,” Talay said.
“He’s still going to need a jab before the game regardless to play but he’ll be available to start.”
Talay says Ball isn’t doing any more damage to his toe by playing, but it won’t heal without proper rest.
“We have to look at the risk and the reward and I think the reward is very high so I believe we need to take that risk for this game.
“It’s one of those where again we’re working off the player, off Bally and how he feels and we go from there.
“We’ve got a very important game that he wants to be involved in so we’ll use him to the best that we can.”
The Isuzu UTE A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney is scheduled to kick-off at CommBank Stadium in Sydney at 7:05pm AEST (9:05pm NZT) and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport Select & 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.
Most recent meeting: 24 April 2022 – Wellington Phoenix 1 Western Sydney Wanderers 0
All-time head-to-head: Phoenix 11W, Wanderers 13W & 5D.
Wellington Phoenix squad
3. Matthew BOZINOVSKI, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. James MCGARRY, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Gael SANDOVAL, 8. Ben OLD, 9. David BALL, 10. Reno PISCOPO, 11. Jaushua SOTIRIO, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 14. Alex RUFER (c), 16. Louis FENTON, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 18. Ben WAINE, 19. Sam SUTTON, 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS, 30. Henry GRAY (gk), 31. Kurtis MOGG, 32. George OTT, 33. Finn SURMAN, 34. Jackson MANUEL, 36. Riley BIDOIS, 38. Luis TOOMEY, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 43. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 88. Gary HOOPER
Unavailable: 11. Jaushua SOTIRIO (calf injury), 14. Alex RUFER (season-ending knee injury), 17. Callan ELLIOT (hamstring injury), 21. Joshua LAWS (knee injury), 23. Clayton LEWIS (ankle injury)
This story is reproduced with the assistance of the Wellington Phoenix.