Reds to play it straight with Rojas

Adelaide United coach Rini Coolen believes Wellington Phoenix's reported plans to seek referee protection for star teenager Marco Rojas is unnecessary.

Adelaide United coach Rini Coolen believes Wellington Phoenix's reported plans to seek referee protection for star teenager Marco Rojas is unnecessary.

Speaking ahead of Friday's cut-throat Hyundai A-League elimination final between the two sides at Hindmarsh Stadium, Coolen had no issue with Wellington making such a request, however he believed official safeguarding of the diminutive right-winger is not required.

"They are allowed to do it; I don't have a problem with that," Coolen said.

"The referee will do that - he's there to make the right decisions and I don't think you have to tell him that."

"What I don't want is tackles against my players and big, hard tackles by my players against their players."

"Things can happen, especially in finals - things are getting more and more important and tackles belong to the sport, but the referee is there to find out what's the level - what's allowed, what's not allowed … that's the job for the referee."

Rojas' likely direct opponent, stocky left-back Cassio, who is returning from a thigh injury, laughed off any suggestions that his side plays dirty, that he or any of his teammates would target Rojas or that referee asylum would be needed.

"I will play hard, I will play my game," the Brazilian said. "If he comes to me I will try to stop him."

"He's a really good young player, everybody can see that."

"Maybe they should do the same (protection) with (United teammate Mathew) Leckie."

"I think we're a pretty fair team, we play the ball, we just go out to play football as we always have the whole competition and we will do again this game against Wellington."

Cassio also dismissed concerns Phoenix would be disadvantaged by having a five-day break compared to the Reds' full week off.

"Maybe it's an excuse (for) if they lose," he said.

"We've played three games in eight days (previously) - it's tough for everybody."

"I think in this competition five days to recover is not too bad."

The three-game, eight-day sequence Cassio referred to culminated in Adelaide's 1-0 loss to Wellington less than a fortnight ago, United's second straight loss to Phoenix.

On that occasion the Reds had just a two-day break going into the match.

Coolen respects what the New Zealand-based organisation brings to the table but believes his side will be in better shape this time around and that the longer break is in fact quite an advantage.

"We lost the last one and they deserved to win," Coolen said.

"Even if I thought we played better than them, we didn't score the goals - we created a lot of chances but we were not fresh enough to play against them.

"We are much fresher now.

"If you saw the games for them (Wellington) the last (few) weeks, they've played pretty well with different kind of systems, 4-3-3 systems, 4-4-2 systems and they're really good in transition.

"They've got a couple of players that can make the individual difference - they're a strong team."

Adelaide's preparations were rocked by the sudden departure of midfielder Paul Reid after Coolen denied the veteran midfielder's desire to join Sydney FC to participate in the reigning A-League premiers' AFC Champions League campaign which starts in March. . Despite the distraction and its impossibly bad timing, Coolen is preparing for Friday's fixture as merely the entrée to a smorgasbord of finals activity.

While Coolen was non-committal when asked whether the Reds' season would be regarded as a failure should they succumb to Phoenix - "yes and no" was his response - the Adelaide boss is nonetheless hopeful of getting past Friday's hurdle and progressing deep into March.

"My squad is ready to play in more than one game," he said.

"If you see the whole competition, we did make a lot of big steps. We've played some fantastic football.

"What we have to bring in the future is more stability. We want to finish 1-2 and play in the Champions League, so if you look back (now), it was a good season, but we want to win something.

"Hopefully in a couple of weeks we're still playing and we can qualify ourselves for the grand final."