Fixture change pleases Herbert

Ricki Herbert has praised FFA's decision to bring forward Wellington's game against Newcastle because of a World Cup qualifying clash.

Ricki Herbert has praised the decision by Football Federation Australia to bring forward Wellington Phoenix's game against Newcastle Jets because of a clash with the New Zealand's World Cup qualifying matches.

The Jets are fuming that the match has been moved from its original date of March 23 to February 27 because it clashes with the All Whites' World Cup qualifiers against New Caledonia (March 22) and the Solomon Islands (March 26).

Jets coach Gary van Egmond said the decision was "insulting" and has suggested they may send a weakened team for the clash at Westpac Stadium next month.

Newcastle will have to play three games in 10 days, with fixtures against Brisbane Roar at home and Melbourne Victory away sandwiching the trip to Wellington.

But Herbert had little sympathy for his opponents. The Phoenix will have to play three matches in eight days in that period and had to send a depleted side to Melbourne Heart in round two when a good chunk of their squad were away on World Cup qualifying duty.

"We probably weren't happy having to play the one with eight players away," said Herbert.

"I think there's probably a little bit of justice done and thanks to the FFA.

"A World Cup is a massive tournament for any country. It's pleasing (the fixture has been moved)."

Herbert has more pressing issues at the moment with his side sitting bottom of the A-League ahead of an important trip to ninth-placed Sydney FC.

Goalkeeper Glen Moss and playmaker Paul Ifill will return to the squad for Saturday's match but defensive midfielder Manny Muscat is still suspended.

"Paul probably won't start," revealed Herbert.

"It will be good to have him back in the environment. We'll do a little bit of work there Friday night and he'll be part of that as well.

"He's been out of it for a wee while now and it will be good for his head space to get back and be part of the main group."

Herbert also hinted that Alex Smith could come in for Louis Fenton as the side looks to tighten up the midfield and defence ahead of the expected challenge against Alessandro Del Piero and Sydney's new signing Joel Griffiths.

Brazilian Tiago Calvano is also expected to make his first appearance for the Sky Blues since joining from Newcastle.

"Smithy might come into a midfield role just for an away fixture probably alongside Vinnie (Lia)," said Herbert.

"(Louis) may drop to the bench, that's just par for the course at the moment. I'm absolutely delighted with him. I think we just pull him back a little bit (this week) and then let him go again."

Herbert denied the Phoenix were in desperation territory just yet but if they are to stand any chance of making the play-offs this year they need a reversal in fortunes, and quickly.

"If we get something from this it puts us back in the mix again," he said.

"We are only looking week to week now. It's a big game for us but we've got 12 more big ones to go.

"We've got to be better and hopefully we are on Saturday night.

"It's only desperate when the points are all gone and you can't do it. It's in everybody's best interests that we get across (to Sydney) and we get the three points and we play well."