PREVIEW: Phoenix hope for big crowd for Waitangi Day clash with Mariners

posted in: A-League (Men), News

The Wellington Phoenix host their second top-of-the-table match in three weeks when they face A-League champions the Central Coast Mariners on Waitangi Day.

And the club are hoping a bumper crowd at Sky Stadium will help get the team a win to keep their pole position on the Isuzu UTE A-League ladder.

The message from Phoenix general manager David Dome.

Main photo: Wellington’s Sky Stadium … will host top-of-the-table match at 4pm on Tuesday.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano told media. “I hope we get a massive turnout. I think the boys deserve it.”

The biggest crowd of the season cheered the 10-man Phoenix on to a dramatic 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory in their last match in Wellington.

“I thought the Victory game was a really good atmosphere,” Italiano said.

“If we can come away with three points at home hopefully that builds a bit of momentum for us in terms of crowd numbers and so on.”

Giancarlo Italiano … ‘they’ve done it before, and they’ll do it again.’

Mariners have surged to second on the ladder, just two points behind the Nix, after winning 4-0 in Adelaide on Saturday night.

“I think they’re the best team in the league at the moment. I don’t think there’s any question [about that].

“They’re the champions, they’ve regained their form and the way they’re going they’ll be very close to the top again.

“We haven’t won anything yet so we can’t claim that title. Until the day we do then we can banter about that we’re the best team in the league and then we have to live up to that reputation.

“I always say if we want to be the best team, we have to beat these teams week-in, week-out.”

Central Coast lost their first four matches of the season, but are unbeaten in their 11 since, winning eight and drawing three. They have also only conceded 10 goals during their unbeaten run.

“Since round five against the Jets they’ve been the best team defensively.

“They don’t concede a lot of goals, they’re very hard to breakdown [and] I think they have some very good imports.

“Angel Torres is … one of the leading attackers in the league at the moment. He’s a definite threat and you saw his threat against Adelaide.

“And I just like the way they play. They’re quite efficient, their build-up is quite good, and they have a really good intent with the way they play.”

As much as Italiano admires and respects the Mariners, he wants his side to take the initiative at home.

“It’s a fusion of both worrying about what they do and hopefully they’re worrying about what we’re doing.

“We have plans to curb their threats and I feel like we can still stick to what we believe in, so it’ll be quite interesting tactically.

“If there’s an early goal and it opens up I think it could be quite an exciting game because both teams can attack [and] we both counter well.

“They’ll pose us problems that other teams haven’t given us and likewise.”

Skipper Alex Rufer … back from suspension.

Alex Rufer and Tim Payne return

Giancarlo Italiano is welcoming back captain Alex Rufer and fullback Tim Payne from suspension.

“Last game, you could tell we missed him (Rufer); we missed a leader on the park.

“The fact that Rufs is back now gives us a little bit more control in the middle.

“In hindsight, it’s probably a good thing they haven’t played those stretch of games. I think it’s maybe a bit of a godsend because we’ve got these next two very important games.”

But Italiano will be without midfielder Nicholas Pennington, because of suspension, and striker Oskar Zawada, who has suffered a groin injury.

READ MORE: New injury sidelines Phoenix striker Oskar Zawada ‘for up to four weeks’ >>>>

“He’s the ultimate pro. He looks after his body like no one else. I think it’s more just bad luck than anything.

“I feel as though if he was fully fit, and we integrated him into the team the way we thought he could integrate, we’d probably have a little bit more at the moment.

“Any injury is frustrating, and he wanted to have a big season, but once he comes back, and hopefully knock on wood everything is fine, he still has a big part to play in this team.

“This is not the first time something like this has happened and he’s a big player for us, but the rest of the squad will pick up the shortfall.

“They’ve done it before, and they’ll do it again.”

Past meetings

Most recent meeting: 24 February 2023 – Central Coast Mariners 1 Wellington Phoenix 1

All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 20W, Mariners 18W & 9D.

How to watch

The game will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 1 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ in Australia.

Fixture

Game to be played on Tuesday February 6, 2024

Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners
Sky Stadium, Wellington, 4pm (NZT)

Standings

Table at 8am (NZT) on Tuesday February 6.

Squads

Wellington Phoenix (one to be omitted)

3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Fin CONCHIE, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD, 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 12. Mo AL-TAAY, 14. Alex RUFER (c), 18. Lukas KELLY-HEALD, 23. Luke SUPYK, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 25. Jack DUNCAN (gk), 26. Isaac HUGHES, 39. Seth KARUNARATNE, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 42. Fergus GILLION, 43. Matt SHERIDAN.

Unavailable: 9. Oskar ZAWADA (injured), 19. Sam SUTTON (injured).

Potential Central Coast Mariners squad (three to be omitted)

2. Mikael DOKA, 3. Brian KALTAK, 4. Josh NISBET, 6. Max BALARD, 7. Christian THEOHAROUS, 9. Alou KUOL, 11. Angel TORRES, 15. Storm ROUX, 16. Harrison STEELE, 17. Jing REEC, 18. Jacob FARRELL, 20. Daniel VUKOVIC (gk) (c), 22. Ronald BARCELLOS, 23. Daniel HALL, 26. Bradley TAPP, 28. Will WILSON, 30. Jack WARSHAWSKY (gk), 33. Nathan PAULL, 37. Bailey BRANDTMAN, 39. Miguel DI PIZIO, 99. Ryan EDMONDSON.

Credit

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

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