Wellington Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay is keen to get a monkey off his back at Allianz Stadium on Saturday evening.
Talay has yet to beat Sydney FC since taking charge of the Phoenix men for the 2019-20 Isuzu UTE A-League.
His former employers have won five of the seven meetings with the Nix in Talay’s previous three seasons, with the other two matches finishing in draws.
The Sky Blues’ unbeaten run against Wellington stretches back even further, with their last defeat to the Phoenix in December 2018.
Main photo: Ufuk Talay … eager to turn record around against his old club.
“I think we match up well with Sydney,” Talay said. “It’s just getting over that hurdle of winning that game against them.
“It’s a great opportunity for the boys to go out there and perform and try and get a result.”
He is looking forward to rubbing shoulders with Sydney FC coach Steve Corica, who he served under during their 2018-19 championship-winning season.
“It’s always nice to come across Stevie as well. I’ve known Stevie a long time.
“I made my debut at Marconi with him 25-30 years ago so that friendship is still there and it’s nice to see our generation coming through and doing well in the competition.”
The Nix are ninth on the ladder, two points behind Sydney, after relinquishing a 1-0 lead to lose 3-1 to runaway leaders Melbourne City at Sky Stadium on Monday.
“It’s a very important game. We lost our last game against Melbourne City at home, where we dropped three points.
“We’ll go there to try to win the game, but it’s an away game as well. If we get ourselves into a situation where we’re not able to do what we want to do it’s very important that we don’t lose the game.”
The coaches and players have reviewed the City defeat and know they need to be better in front of goal against the Sky Blues.
“I think there were a lot of positives in the way that we played. I think performance-wise I thought we played some really good football at times.
“Result-wise obviously it’s a negative because we need to win games. We play games to get the result and unfortunately we weren’t clinical enough to put those opportunities away and we walk away empty handed.
“The most important thing is we’re getting in the right areas and we’re getting the balls where we try to hurt opponents and I think we did that against Melbourne City. Just that final execution is what let us down.”
Performances at the other end of the pitch are also a frustration for the Phoenix.
The Nix have yet to keep a clean sheet this season and have conceded 18 goals in 10 matches.
“When you try to play attacking football there is a risk element to it, but at the same time the goals that we’ve conceded I don’t think that we’ve been really outplayed.
“I think we’ve had enough numbers to deal with the situations…that we’ve conceded from, and we’ve conceded some soft and some sloppy goals. That’s something that we try to improve on.
“Defensively it’s easy to blame individuals but it’s a collective because the defensive work starts from the front.”
Academy graduates Ben Old and Finn Surman are back in the extended squad having recovered from their injuries.
Of the two, Old is more likely to feature against Sydney after taking a full part in training this week.
Game to be played on Saturday January 7, 2023
Sydney v Wellington Phoenix
Allianz Stadium, Sydney (7pm NZT)
How to watch
The game will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 2 & 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.
Most recent A-League meeting: 19 February 2022 – Wellington Phoenix 1 Sydney FC 1
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 13W, Sydney 26W & 6D.
3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD, 9. Oskar ZAWADA, 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 12. Lucas MAURAGIS, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 14. Alex RUFER (c), 17. Callan ELLIOT, 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 31. Yan SASSE, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk).
Unavailable: 19. Sam SUTTON (illness).
1. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 2. James DONACHIE, 5. Connor O’TOOLE, 6. Jack RODWELL, 8. Paulo RETRE, 9. Adam LE FONDRE, 11. Robert MAK, 12. Pat WOOD, 16. Patrick YAZBEK, 17. Anthony CACERES, 18. Diego CABALLO, 19. Adrian SEGECIC, 20. Thomas HEWARD-BELLE (gk), 21. Alex PARSONS, 22. Max BURGESS, 23. Rhyan GRANT, 25. Jaiden KUCHARSKI, 26. Luke BRATTAN, 28. Jake GIRDWOOD-REICH, 29. Aaron GURD.
Unavailable: 4. Alex WILKINSON (c) (injured), 10. Joe LOLLEY (suspended), 27. Adrian VLASTELICA (illness).