Vince Lia reckons Aaron Mooy's absence on Qantas Socceroos duty will leave a big hole in the Western Sydney Wanderers midfield this weekend.
Vince Lia reckons Aaron Mooy's absence on Socceroos duty will leave a big hole in the Western Sydney Wanderers midfield this weekend.
The Wanderers are making their first trip to Wellington for Sunday's round nine clash without arguably their best player, who will instead be with the Australia squad as they try to qualify for next year's East Asian Cup.
"It's good for him to get into the Socceroos," said Lia of the 22-year-old attacking midfielder.
"He's back in Australia (after leaving Scottish club St Mirren) and done really well. He will be a big loss for them."
But the Wanderers will have the services of star import Shinji Ono and have shown already in their debut season that they can be a difficult team to break down, even if they are lacking some precision in the front third where they have managed just five goals in eight games.
"(You need patience) and I think the movement has to be good. If you're just static then it's easy for them to defend," Lia said.
"You need to try and draw players out of position and then get balls in behind them. The energy has to be right up there and the movement has to be good to get through their defence.
"I think we have to be on our game this weekend to get the points."
Lia's return to the starting line-up in a 4-3-3 formation has resulted in two strong away performances - a win against Newcastle and a draw with Perth - and a move up to seventh on the A-League table.
The Australian has brought some stability to the midfield alongside Manny Muscat and Alex Smith which has freed up Louis Fenton, Jeremy Brockie, who has bagged five goals in the last four games, and Paul Ifill in the front third.
"It's always nice when you come back into the side and we're picking up some points," Lia said.
"The way the season was going and we'd lost three in a row we needed to get back to our strength of being hard to beat.
"I think the numbers in the middle do that and allow the players ahead of us to express themselves without worrying about getting caught on the break.
"It's a good formation for the style of play that we adopt. It's working well."
It has also allowed fullbacks Tony Lochhead and Leo Bertos to get down the flanks more and put pressure on opposition defences with their crosses into the box.
"If we can create some space out wide and whip balls in hopefully Brockie can (score)," Lochhead said.
"If you just send it close to him he'll knock it in. He's banging them in for fun right now. He's hot." Sunday's match will be the first one at Westpac Stadium since the loss to Central Coast Mariners three weeks ago.
It marks the start of an important few weeks for the Phoenix who have four of the next five games at home.
Sydney FC return for a second time on December 9 then Wellington travel to Adelaide before they return to host the Mariners again then Melbourne Heart before the end of the year.
"We've got two home games (firstly) and we back ourselves to beat anyone here," Lia said.
"They are definitely games that we need to win."
The New Zealand capital is not a place most Australian teams look forward to visiting, particularly when it is windy and wet.
Those conditions are expected for Sunday's clash. While the Phoenix bean-counters would probably prefer sunshine to entice the fans to the game, left-back Tony Lochhead won't be too unhappy if it rains.
"Hopefully it's a nice windy, wet day and they don't want to come out and play on Sunday," he said with a smile.
"It seems like every time we've played this year it hasn't been the best.
"To be fair, it's good for us. It means it's a home field advantage.
"Obviously the Aussie teams aren't used to those kind of conditions so it gives us a bit of an advantage. It helps us hopefully get a result."