PREVIEW: Phoenix striker Oskar Zawada set to return for A-League fixture

posted in: A-League (Men), News

Talismanic striker Oskar Zawada could make a sooner-than-expected return to the Wellington Phoenix after missing last week’s men’s A-League game because of a groin strain.

After initially facing two or three weeks on the sideline, Zawada has travelled with the squad to Australia for Saturday’s match against bottom-of-the-table Western United.

Main photo: Oskar Zawada … could return to action on Saturday.

Head coach Giancarlo Italiano said: “He had a good week of rehab and his injury is better than expected, so hopefully, we can give him some game time tomorrow depending how the game pans out. I’m hoping to at least give him 20 minutes to see how he is.

“The main thing is that he recovers from the travel properly. We’ll assess that in the morning and see how the game pans out.”

‘Expectation stays the same for every game …’

Meanwhile, Italiano is tempering expectations ahead of Saturday’s Isuzu UTE A-League match against Western United in Ballarat.

The Phoenix enter round six equal top of the competition ladder, having made an unbeaten start to the new season, while Western sit bottom of the table with just three points to their name.

Italiano has played down suggestions there will be increased expectation on the Nix this weekend.

“Expectation stays the same for every game,” he told media ahead of the team’s flight to Melbourne on Friday. “Whether they’re bottom or they’re top, the intent is the same from our team.

“We’re travelling away from home, we want to have a good performance, a good solid 90 minutes playing the football that we’re trying to play, and if the result comes it comes.

“It’s nice to win games and to be undefeated. For me the main thing is the group plays well and we give something for the fans to enjoy. That’s ultimately what it comes down to.

“There will be games this season where we do lose and play unbelievably well and there will be games where we might grab a result when we’re not playing as well.

“For me it’s more about the performance overall over a long period for us to get anything out of the season.”

A number of the Phoenix’s young players, headlined by goalkeeper Alex Paulsen, have shone in the opening five rounds of the season, but Italiano is wary of getting carried away.

“For us, the big question now is consistency and making sure they can turn in performances week after week.

“The one thing you’re always guaranteed of with young players is they’re going to be inconsistent performers and it’s just a matter of riding that wave and giving them the right mindset so they can deal with when things don’t work out as they plan.

“At the moment, I wouldn’t say we’re in a honeymoon period, but we haven’t experienced a loss yet. Once we go through that it’ll be a real test to see where their heads are at.

“If we’re doing a good job we can stabilise them and their next performance will be a real good indication of where they’re at.”

Western United ‘have been very unlucky’

Western United have lost their last four matches after upsetting Melbourne City in their season opener at AAMI Park.

“I think they’ve been very unlucky. If you look at the chances they had against Adelaide [last weekend] I thought they were quite unlucky not to get something out of that game.

“They had that really good result against Melbourne City in the first game and they went off the boil in the Wanderers game, but they’ve regrouped quite well.

“They’ve got a lot of experience and they’re got some really dangerous players so they’re not a team to be taken lightly.”

The Phoenix flew to Melbourne on Friday afternoon and will travel to Ballarat on matchday. The men have drawn their past two matches on the road and scored just one goal.

“You have to look at context right. We played two teams away from home who are undefeated. Melbourne Victory haven’t lost a game, Wanderers haven’t lost a game and they’re both sitting up high on the table, so they’re good opponents and very hard to play.

“It’s not by design, let me tell you. We’re not going there and going ‘We’re not going to shoot’.

“For me, the main thing is that people understand that this is an ongoing process. We’re not peaking now. We want to peak at the end of the season and it’s a work in a progress.”

Young forward Luke Supyk has also been included in the Phoenix’s touring party, having returned from the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Indonesia.

Past meetings

Most recent meeting: 17 February 2023 – Western United 0 Wellington Phoenix 3

All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 7W, Western 3W & 1D.

How to watch

The game will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 2 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.


Game to be played on December 2, 2023

Western United v Wellington Phoenix
Mars Stadium, Ballarat, 7.30pm (NZT)


Wellington Phoenix (two to be omitted)

3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Fin CONCHIE, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD, 9. Oskar ZAWADA, 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 12. Mo AL-TAAY, 14. Alex RUFER (c), 15. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 18. Lukas KELLY-HEALD, 19. Sam SUTTON, 23. Luke SUPYK, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 25. Jack DUNCAN (gk), 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 42. Fergus GILLION, 52. Jackson MANUEL.

Unavailable: Nil.

Western United (two to be omitted)

1. Tom HEWARD-BELLE (gk), 6. Tomoki IMAI, 7. Ramy NAJJARINE, 8. Lachie WALES, 9. Michael RUHS, 10. Steven LUSTICA, 11. Daniel PENHA, 13. Nikita RUKAVYTSYA, 17. Ben GARUCCIO, 19. Josh RISDON (c), 21. Sebastian PASQUALI, 22. Kane VIDMAR, 24. Connor O’TOOLE, 27. Jacob TRATT, 32. Angus THURGATE, 33. Matt SUTTON (gk), 38. Noah BOTIC, 39. Matthew GRIMALDI, 42. Rhys BOZINOVSKI, 77. Riku DANZAKI.

Unavailable: 4. James DONACHIE (injured).


This story is published with the help of the Wellington Phoenix.

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