The Wellington Phoenix face another tough test when they take on Western Sydney Wanderers in the Westfield FFA Cup in Campbelltown tonight.
The Phoenix lifted to beat Beijing BG in the Wellington-Beijing Capital Cup on the back of a tough travel schedule on Wednesday and so far as head coach Ernie Merrick is concerned playing the Wanderers is just what the doctor ordered.
“It is great that we are playing a high-quality A-League side that was in the A-League Grand Final last season and just missed out,” Merrick said.
“They are always very competitive and that is what we need to discover our strengths and weaknesses so we can work on them in the rest of pre-season.
“We will be looking to cement our attacking play after a good display in Beijing.
“We don’t have Roy Krishna at the moment but Hamish Watson did well in Beijing, scoring our first goal and we have Kosta Barbarouses, who was outstanding last week, up front.
“Gui Finkler was also outstanding in the No 10 position, while Roly Bonevacia and Michael McGlinchey were always attacking.
“We have to improve our defensive play because we can’t go through another season conceding early goals.
“Against Beijng we conceded inside three minutes and we have been working on that side of our game in training here in Sydney.”
Strengthening the defence has become a priority for Merrick and he said the club was close to signing a centre back from Europe.
“With that in mind our next focus is finding a Manny Muscat type player who can play right back, a back-up striker to replace Blake Powell and a midfielder to replace Albert Riera.
“We have time to do that but we will have no visa spots available so it will be a case of looking around Australia and New Zealand.
“Myself, Chris (Greenacre) and Des (Buckingham) went to a local game last night and the standard in the New South Wales Premier League is quite high.”
Merrick was pleased with his team’s performance in Beijing.
“As the game progressed we took over and not only was it pleasing to see the senior players going so well, but the the youngsters who went on in the second half also did well and we are hoping some of them go on to earn selection in New Zealand under-20 squad.”
Merrick said there would be little change to the starting eleven as he wanted to get some consistency but Glen Moss will return in goal after recovering from a back strain.
The coach also said he intended to use the three substitutes that will be available to him.
Western Sydney Wanderers FC v Wellington Phoenix
Tuesday 2 August 2016
Campbelltown Stadium, Leumeah (NSW)
Kick-off: 8.00pm local (10pm NZT)