United looking to rebound against the Phoenix

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Adelaide United host Wellington Phoenix on Thursday night in need of a big improvement in defence, as well as a continuation of the great attacking play that we have come to expect from the Reds this season.

The Phoenix head into the match on the back of thumping Central Coast 4-1, with a fantastic second half display ensuring the points. Just as positive as the result for the Nix was the fact that their four goals were scored by four different players, proving that they have dangerous players in multiple positions.

The background

Adelaide’s loss to Melbourne Victory leaves them in 5th place with the Phoenix just a point behind in 7th position. A loss on Thursday would leave United needing results to go their way to stay in the top six, but a win could see them finish the round in third spot on the ladder.

The two teams met for the first time this season in round 17, with the Phoenix triumphing 2-1 at Eden Park in Auckland. That game highlighted a few defensive worries for United, which were amplified in their loss last week against the Victory as they conceded four goals. Lapses in concentration cost the Reds dearly, and they will have to avoid a repeat of those mistakes to better the Phoenix.

The Phoenix can also be vulnerable at the back, failing to keep a clean sheet since round 15. United winger Sergio Cirio grabbed a clinical hat-trick against the Victory, scoring three goals from just three attempts. He will be looking to continue that form in front of goal and pull clear in the race for the club’s top scorer award.

The ins & outs

United welcome back Michael Zullo from his suspension, but lose Jon McKain to suspension after picking up his 5th booking of the season last week. Awer Mabil is back in the squad after missing out last week and Ryan Griffiths returns from a shin injury, but the biggest news is that playmaker Marcelo Carrusca has been ruled out. The Argentine midfielder picked up an adductor injury that forced him from the field against the Victory and has not recovered in time, although he is expected to be back next week.

There is no new injury or suspension news for the Phoenix, but Jason Hicks and Hamish Watson have been added to the squad to give coach Ernie Merrick more options. Wellington’s biggest miss is their Spanish midfield sensation Albert Riera, who has come out of nowhere this season to be a crucial part of the Phoenix’s gameplan. In what is a big blow for both the player and his team, the midfielder’s groin injury has the potential to be season ending.

The 90 minutes

McKain’s absence means Osama Malik is likely to return to centre back, and Zullo’s return at left back means there is a fight for the right fullback position between Tarek Elrich and Michael Marrone. Elrich has been solid this season but his standards dipped in the defeat to the Victory, and may have opened the door for Marrone who has looked sharp since re-joining the Reds.

The void left by Carrusca’s injury could be filled by pushing Isaías further forward or by promoting Jake Barker-Daish to the starting lineup. Cirio could play as a creative midfielder but Gombau will not want to lose his attacking threat by moving him away from the left flank.

Merrick is unlikely to change a proven method which means we will see Carlos Hernandez, Kenny Cunningham and Stein Huysegems attacking the United backline with plenty of pace and power. Manny Muscat and Vince Lia will shield the Wellington back four and look to break up the Reds’ swift attacking play.

The mind games

When asked if he would make any tactical adjustments to combat the Phoenix, Gombau suggested he would, but will only tinker with his defensive approach.

“Now after I’ve seen their last games we can change a little bit the way that we will defend (against) them but the way that we attack them no. We don’t make any changes to our attacking movements because we are playing well”, Gombau said when speaking to the media on Wednesday.

“What we want is to win, what we want is to attack, what we want is to have the ball, to create chances for to score goals. We will not change this. We will play every single game to win, every single game to attack.”

Spanish winger Cirio told reporters that defending was not just the job of the men at the back.

“All the team need to do his work – every player.”

“It is a strange feeling because I did a hat-trick but the most important is the team and we lose the game and the supporters always want that we win against (Melbourne Victory),” he said in reference to scoring three goals but still losing the match.

“We try until the end of the game but we lose. The next time we’ll try again.”

Phoenix striker Huysegems was confident of his side’s ability to create chances and to take them when speaking after the win in Gosford.

“With Carlos and Kenny, you know you’re going to get a lot of chances in every game,” Huysegems said. “We can move down the field very quickly…Some teams defend a bit more than other teams against us, but I think we can handle that. We’re playing some good football.

“We have an unselfish team. There are a lot of guys here scoring goals – we don’t depend on one or two players. That’s the good thing about our team – a lot of players can score and a lot of players can create goals.”

The extra info

This game will be the first of round 21, which is known as ‘Erase Racism round’. As part of Erase Racism Round, fans can donate to the cause at alltogethernow.org.au/get-involved/donations.

Football Central will be bringing you live coverage of the match, so make sure to follow @FootballCentAU for the best online coverage!

The squads

Thursday, 27 February 2014
Adelaide United v Wellington Phoenix
Coopers Stadium, Adelaide
 7.00pm local (7:30pm AEDT)
Referee: Lucien Laverdure
Assistant Referee 1: Daniel Goodwin
Assistant Referee 2: Stephen Toth
Fourth Official: Rick Schneider

Adelaide United squad: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk) (c), 2.Michael MARRONE, 3.Nigel BOOGAARD, 5.Osama MALIK, 7.JERONIMO, 8.ISAIAS, 9.Sergio CIRIO, 11.Bruce DJITE, 14.Cameron WATSON, 16. Daniel BOWLES, 17.Awer MABIL, 18.Michael ZULLO, 19.Jake BARKER-DAISH, 20.Paul IZZO (gk),
21.Tarek ELRICH, 22.Fabio FERREIRA, 23.Jordan ELSEY, 31.Ryan GRIFFITHS
**Two to be omitted**

Ins: 16.Daniel BOWLES (promoted), 17.Awer MABIL (Promoted), 18.Michael ZULLO (returns from suspension), 31.Ryan GRIFFITHS (returns from injury)

Outs: 4.Jon McKain (suspended- 1 week), 10.Marcelo Carrusca (adductor strain – 1 week)

Unavailable: 6.CASSIO (hamstring tendon – indefinite), 15.Jacob MELLING (knee – 1 week),

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Glen MOSS (GK), 2.Manny MUSCAT, 3.Reece CAIRA, 5.Michael BOXALL, 6.Josh BRINDELL-SOUTH, 9.Kenny CUNNINGHAM, 10.Stein HUYSEGEMS, 11.Jeremy BROCKIE, 12.Tyler BOYD, 15.Jason HICKS, 17.Vince LIA, 18.Ben SIGMUND, 19.Hamish WATSON, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (GK), 21.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.Matthew RIDENTON, 24.Roy KRISHNA.
**Two to be omitted**

Ins: 15. Jason HICKS (promoted), 19. Hamish WATSON (promoted).

Outs: Nil.

Unavailable: 7.Leo BERTOS (groin injury 2-3 weeks), 8.Paul IFILL (ruptured Achilles, season), 13.Albert RIERA (groin injury 4-5 weeks), 16.Louis FENTON (shoulder injury, season).

Andrew Cussen

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