Preview: Wellington v Newcastle
The Yellow Fever have the temperature rising in Wellington but Branko Culina and his Jets are coming to town to spoil the party.
Date: Sunday March 7 Kick-off: 4.00pm (6:00pm AEDT) Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 2/2 HD and Sky Sport 1. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is The Radio Network 1035 AM (Wellington). Tickets: SOLD OUT
Head-to-head 9 Hyundai A-League meetings: Wins: Wellington 5, Newcastle 3, Draws: 1
Previous meeting Newcastle 0, Wellington 1, EnergyAustralia Stadium, Round 15, November 2009
Past five matches: Wellington Phoenix: Round 19: Melbourne Victory 4, Wellington Phoenix 0, Etihad Stadium Round 25: Wellington Phoenix 1, Adelaide United 0, AMI Stadium, Christchurch Round 26: Gold Coast United 0, Wellington Phoenix 1, Skilled Park, Gold Coast Round 27: Wellington Phoenix 3, Central Coast Mariners 0, Westpac Stadium Minor semi-final: Wellington Phoenix 1 Perth Glory 1 (4-2 penalties) Westpac Stadium
Newcastle Jets: Round 24: Newcastle Jets 1, Sydney FC 3, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 25: North Queensland 2, Newcastle Jets 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 26: Central Coast Mariners 3, Newcastle Jets 0, Bluetongue Stadium Round 27: Newcastle Jets 1, Adelaide United 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Minor semi-final: Gold Coast United 0, Newcastle Jets 0 (6-5 penalties), Skilled Park
Analysis: The Yellow Fever have the temperature rising in Wellington but Branko Culina and his Jets are coming to town to spoil the party.
Having defeated Perth in a dramatic penalty shoot-out in the first minor semi-final, support for the Phoenix in the New Zealand capital has gone through the roof, with over 34,000 fans expected to attend the sell-out match. But despite facing a sea of hostile yellow-shirted supporters on the terraces, Newcastle coach Culina is confident his side can run Wellington off its feet after five of the Kiwi XI were involved in international games over the past fortnight, along with coach Ricki Herbert.
Indeed, it's been a particularly disrupted period for the Phoenix as Leo Bertos, Ben Sigmund, Tony Lochhead and Tim Brown all played in New Zealand's 2-0 loss to Mexico in Los Angeles during the week. The four players and Herbert are not scheduled to fly into Wellington until Saturday morning, giving them just on 30 hours to prepare for this encounter. Andrew Durante, meanwhile, was with the Australian squad for the Qantas Socceroos 1-0 win over Indonesia in Brisbane, the skipper also only having minimal time to train with his club team-mates.
Despite enjoying mountains of home support, the heavy travelling schedule could prove a massive burden to Wellington's chances of progressing to a Preliminary final against either Melbourne or Sydney. Bertos played against Mexico but will need to make his legs run even harder up and down the flanks as his regular replacement Adrian Caceres is unavailable, still in Argentina for the birth of his child. Exciting youngster Costa Barbarouses, though, has been named to provide that run.
Lochhead and Brown will also have to keep battling away, while both Herbert's central defenders in Sigmund and Durante have been absent from team training. With Jon McKain suspended for a week after his two yellow cards against Perth, Sigmund has to slot into his role, although he has had a rehearsal, having played a full match in the position against Mexico.
The upshot for Wellington, though, is that its strikers Paul Ifill, Chris Greenacre and Eugene Dadi have all taken a fortnight to recover from any niggles, while the club is also riding a wave of momentum as it finished the regular season off impressively.
Newcastle, meanwhile, endured a torrid end to its campaign, losing its last four matches before bravely defying Gold Coast United in another minor semi-final penalty shootout. Despite the final score in that game being 0-0 after extra time, it was a fairly open affair, although the Jets could count themselves lucky Joel Porter and Shane Smeltz didn't have their shooting boots on. That's not to discount the efforts of young goalkeeper Ben Kennedy, who was immense, particularly in the shoot-out, but United did have the better of the chances and one can't imagine Ifill, Greenacre and even Dadi being so charitable.
Although Newcastle has had a fortnight together to prepare, the Jets still have some injury clouds hovering over Jobe Wheelhouse (groin), Tarek Elrich (knee) and the influential Jin-Hyung Song (illness), who had to be hospitalised through the week. Culina has declared the absence of striker Michael Bridges and rushing back half-done players meant the Jets had to play a defensive game against Gold Coast. But the coach believes his side now has the fitness to run rings around the Phoenix, especially after the Wellington players' difficult travelling schedule. The Jets will therefore be instructed to play a high-tempo game, but they will have to be very wary of Ifill, Greenacre and Dadi, who will all be fresh and more than willing to exploit a counter-attack.
Culina, though, will be only too aware his side has lost its last two games to Wellington. The last time the Jets travelled to Westpac Stadium, they were systematically destroyed in a 3-0 result that could have been 10-0 such was Wellington's dominance. That game was probably the lowest point of the season for Culina and since then his side has responded in style, but the coach will no doubt be using it as motivation. Herbert, on the other hand, may be asking his players to show the type of spirit they produced in the Round 15 1-0 win over the Jets at EnergyAustralia Stadium. That match was the ultimate danger game for the Phoenix, coming the week after New Zealand's famous World Cup qualifying win over Bahrain. But despite all the distractions and the forty-degree temperature, the Phoenix came through for a 1-0 win. More importantly, Wellington has backed up after playing midweek games more than any other side this season, but whether it can do so again on such a big occasion remains to be seen.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 5. DIEGO, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Adrian CACERES, 15. Eugene DADI, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.Costa BARBAROUSES, 40. Liam REDDY (gk)
*two to be omitted*
In: DIEGO (promoted), Costa BARBAROUSES (promoted), Michael FERRANTE (promoted)
Out: Jon McKAIN (suspended - 1 week)
Unavailable: Mark PASTON (gk) (leg - season)
Newcastle Jets squad: 1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 5. Ljubo MILICEVIC, 6. Ben KANTAROVSKI, 7. Jin-Hyung SONG, 8. Matt THOMPSON (c), 9. Sasho PETROVSKI, 11. Tarek ELRICH, 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 15. Sean ROONEY, 22. Kaz PATAFTA, 25. Labinot HALITI, 26. Ali ABBAS, 29. Mirjan PAVLOVIC, 30. Dion SHAW (gk)
*one to be omitted*
In: Ben KANTAROVSKI (returns from injury)
Unavailable: Shaun ONTONG (Achilles - indefinite), Michael BRIDGES (Quadriceps - 4 weeks), Fabio VIGNAROLI (knee - indefinite), Marko JESIC (knee - indefinite), Neil YOUNG (gk) (face - indefinite)