Wellington Phoenix boss Ufuk Talay is tempering expectations as his side seek to equal the club’s record unbeaten streak this weekend against Western Sydney Wanderers.
The Phoenix have been one of the form teams of the competition in recent weeks and sit one result short of matching their best-ever run of nine matches without defeat.
Currently sitting fourth on the Hyundai A-League ladder, the Phoenix will bring home field advantage into their clash with a Wanderers side they defeated 2-1 just a month ago at the same venue.
However, despite momentum being squarely with his side, Talay says a record run of results pales in importance to the club’s quest to secure consecutive Finals Series appearances for the first time since 2012.
“We just focus on game by game,” Talay explained.
“For me the season is a long season and still we haven’t achieved anything. Our goal is to make the top six at the end of the season and then continue from there.”
Attempts to downplay his side’s ever increasing reputation are proving difficult for Talay after his side made a clean sweep of the Hyundai A-League’s individual honours for December.
In addition to his own recognition as Coach of the Month, midfielder Cameron Devlin was named Player of the Month and attacker Reno Piscopo was also recognised as the December nominee for the Young Footballer of the Year.
Talay conceded that while opponents and supporters may be viewing the Phoenix in a different light, he is keeping his side focused on the task at hand.
“I think the expectations have changed from people, obviously, with the way we have been playing a certain brand of football,” he explained.
“So their expectations change but, for me, like I said, we take it game by game.
“Western Sydney is our opponent tomorrow and the most important thing is that we play good football and get the result.”
Talay’s task on Saturday is about more than managing expectations, with his side’s depth being tested for the clash at Sky Stadium.
Piscopo remains away on international duty with the Australian U-23 team, while Talay also confirmed influential attacker David Ball will miss the game following his early exit with a hip injury against Central Coast Mariners last weekend and Alex Rufer will again be absent from the squad through his ongoing knee injury.
Talay acknowledged managing the absence of Ball will prove a challenge for his side in both attack and defence.
“David Ball gives us a lot of energy when we don’t have the ball and he creates a lot of opportunities and he has been involved in most of the goals we have scored this season,” he said.
“So he will be missed but there are going be players that step up and, like I said, it is an opportunities for players to take their opportunity when they play.
“This is great opportunity to test the depth of the squad with the players that we have and these things create opportunities for other players,” he said.
Talay would neither confirm nor deny if newly-acquired midfielder Brandon Wilson will make his club debut against the Wanderers.
"He hasn't played a game in a long time, so we will make a decision as to whether he is part of the playing group tomorrow or whether he is part of the reserve team."
However, Talay suggested that Phoenix supporters should be excited by the burgeoning attacking partnership between Mexican playmaker Ulises Davila and English striker Gary Hooper.
“It will be good to get Hoops out there and Uli has been sensational all season,” he concluded.
Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers
Saturday, 11 January 2020
Kick off: 3.45pm local, 2.45pm AEDT