Caceres set to miss

Adrian Caceres seems set to miss the biggest game of Wellington Phoenix's history this weekend.

Adrian Caceres seems set to miss the biggest game of Wellington Phoenix's history this weekend.

The attacking midfielder has returned to Argentina to be with his wife Romina who is expecting the couple's first child.

But complications with the pregnancy mean the 28-year-old Argentinean is unlikely to be at Westpac Stadium on Sunday for the Phoenix's Hyundai A-League elimination semi-final showdown with Newcastle Jets.

"At this stage it's touch and go," said assistant coach Luciano Trani of Caceres' availability.

"It's unfortunate because Adrian Caceres has done a fantastic job when he's come onto the park and he's given us that extra injection of speed and quality that has just given the team the extra boost."

With Caceres likely to be missing, Leo Bertos should start on the left wing provided he comes through New Zealand's friendly against Mexico in Los Angeles unscathed.

Bertos is one of six first-choice Phoenix players on international duty this week and he and fellow All Whites Tim Brown, Tony Lochhead and Ben Sigmund as well as coach Ricki Herbert are not due back in the New Zealand capital until Saturday.

Centre back pairing Andrew Durante and Jon McKain are part of the Australian squad involved in the Asian Cup qualifying clash against Indonesia so numbers have been thin on the ground at Phoenix training.

But the situation is nothing new for the coaching staff and players who faced similar circumstances earlier in the season.

In September after New Zealand's friendly win against Jordan in Amman they backed up with an away 1-1 draw at Melbourne and in November following the All Whites' victory against Bahrain to qualify for the World Cup they travelled to Newcastle and won 1-0.

"I think this group has been resilient from day one. It's been always capable of a win," said Trani.

"When the team comes together they are focused. I feel right at this point in time that they have become mentally so strong that they will turn up."

"Today there were three players we gave time off to just so they can be ready for New Zealand's game but they said 'no we want to train'."

"That just sends a message to the rest of the boys to think they want to be together.

"Whilst they have got a responsibility for New Zealand they know they have a greater experience and responsibility to Phoenix because it's the Phoenix that has actually got the club and the country to where it is today."

The match is a sell-out and with a crowd of 34,500 getting behind Wellington on Sunday the atmosphere is likely to be even better than that generated by the 24,000-odd who saw the Phoenix win on penalties against Perth Glory in the opening week of the final series.

"It's absolutely fantastic," said striker Chris Greenacre.

"To find out it's been a sell-out it's phenomenal. It's really given the boys that extra edge."

"Hopefully we can put on a performance that justifies the big crowd."