Muscat relishing midfield role

Manny Muscat is relishing his return to the midfield for Wellington Phoenix after playing right-back for much of last season.

Manny Muscat is relishing his return to the midfield for Wellington Phoenix after playing right-back for much of last season.

The 27-year-old has made a good start to the Hyundai A-League campaign back in his preferred position.

He is one of the league's best one-on-one tacklers and, along with midfield partner Alex Smith, has already helped contain Sydney, Melbourne Heart and Brisbane Roar in the Phoenix's unbeaten start to the season.

"I've always enjoyed playing there. You get more of the ball," Muscat said.

"We're doing well. We've won one and drawn two so we haven't lost so far.

"Me and Alex have got a good understanding. We've worked hard on it throughout pre-season and we've taken it on to match days now. It's been good.

"It's been good to have him on my side and working hard as a unit."

The pairing of Muscat and Smith in midfield - and the selection of Belgian Stein Huysegems up front - have been the only constants so far this season as injury and internationals have meant Wellington coach Ricki Herbert has yet to put the same starting 11 out two games in a row.

"We haven't had the same team for the past three weeks now. Hopefully we can get momentum going and carry on getting the points," Muscat said.

"If we can get that sorted and play week in, week out with the same starting XI then we should do well."

The only change expected to the line-up for Saturday's match against Adelaide is the return of central defender and captain Andrew Durante to the back four.

Durante missed the 1-1 draw with the Roar through illness, which has continued to plague the club this week.

Huysegems and Louis Fenton struggled with it on the weekend, while assistant coach Chris Greenacre was unwell at the start of the week.

Both players are expected to make the trip to Hindmarsh Stadium though as is Paul Ifill, who missed training on Wednesday after having an injection for his troublesome ankle.

"Paul is good. He just had an injection. He's fine but can't train so he's in at the gym today," Herbert said.

"It will be nice to put a side out that are settled for two or three weeks. Unfortunately for reasons beyond our control we haven't been able to do that. But we're travelling OK. It's been a good start, probably the best start the club's had."

Herbert will be hoping that good start can continue in Adelaide, but given Wellington's poor track record at Hindmarsh of just two wins in eight visits that is far from a certainty.

However, this time Herbert has had the added benefit of some inside information from Luciano Trani, who quit Adelaide after he was demoted from assistant coach to youth coach just days out from the start of this year's pre-season.

Trani, arguably one of the best analysers and tacticians in the league, is now working as an Australian-based consultant on a part-time basis for the Phoenix.

"Luc is helping out with some of the information and watching teams overseas," Herbert said. "He's just a part-time guy who is adding a different dimension to what we've had in the past.

"I'm sure he knows them (Adelaide) quite well but, to be fair, analysing sides is quite a strength of his. It's good to have him as part of the team."

That sentiment was echoed by Muscat.

"Luc analyses every team thoroughly. Come game day he's got a whole list of pointers. It just gives us a little bit of an upper hand when it comes to game day," he said.