Herbert ignoring hype

Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert is attempting to ignore the hype surrounding the A-League finals race in the lead-up to the game against the Newcastle Jets on Sunday.

Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert is attempting to ignore the hype surrounding the A-League finals race in the lead-up to the game against the Newcastle Jets on Sunday.

While speculation about which teams will make the playoffs hits fever-pitch, Herbert is concentrating on the must-win game at hand.

"If we can get three points from this then we'll be well in the equation but I'm not putting any added pressure on the players, they know what they need to do and everyone's looking forward to this one," he said.

"Our ambitions are in our own hands [to make the top four] and we need to show that from a performance point of view. But at this stage we can't look any further down the track than Sunday."

"If the foot comes off the pedal now then our final game of the season against Melbourne will mean nothing anyway, and the players are aware of that."

The Phoenix sit in fifth position on the table with 22 points, four points adrift of Melbourne Victory and two points in front of Sydney FC.

With seventh-placed Perth Glory needing a miracle to make the playoffs and the Jets definitely out of contention, the Phoenix know a win on Sunday will be huge boost to their finals ambitions.

The Phoenix have recorded a win (home) and a draw (away) against the Novocastrians in their previous two fixtures and on Sunday will want to make it two wins from two matches at Westpac Stadium this season.

"There always going to be pride from teams irrespective of where they are on the table and I'm sure Newcastle will be like that. But we've done well at home this season and we need to continue that on Sunday," Herbert said.

Regular Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante has been ruled out of Sunday's match after being red-carded in last weekend's 3-2 loss to Queensland Roar in Brisbane, while defensive midfielder Jon McKain will also sit in the stand after collecting his fifth yellow card of the season in the same match.

Ben Sigmund returns from injury in place of Durante to link with Karl Dodd in the heart of the Phoenix defence against the Jets, while Brazilian-turned-Kiwi playmaker Daniel is tipped to start as Herbert looks to create more attacking opportunities.

"We'll still go with the standard three up front of Leo Bertos, Shane Smeltz and Troy Hearfield that we played against Queensland rather than having just the two up front that we used for the previous six or seven weeks."

"It's not a case of all-out attack; it's what we've been doing all along. We've had four wins and a draw in our past seven games and that show's we're capable of winning games with what we've been doing.

"I think Daniel will give us something a little bit different coming out of midfield from an attacking perspective, though I'm yet to settle on what the midfield might be at this stage. It'll be very much about balance - we've got to be careful that we don't go out all guns blazing and start copping goals at the other end."

Midfielder Tim Brown will wear the captain's armband and could play a slightly different role given the absence of his regular midfield partner McKain.

"Tim's a very intelligent young man and he accepts the responsibility of leadership very well," Herbert said.

"He's an absolute die-hard Phoenix man and he understands his responsibilities not only from a captaincy point of view but also in terms of his own performance. His role made change slightly on Sunday and that might link up a little more going forward."

"The consistency of him playing there with Michael Ferrante and Jon has really helped his game. Breaking that partnership is a little disappointing but those are the things you have to face."