Talay: This is game is like a final

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On Saturday night the Wellington Phoenix will face off against the Brisbane Roar in what coach Ufuk Talay has likened to a final.

Five games in and coming off the bye, the Phoenix are three points adrift at the bottom of the league. The time to improve is now.

“For me, this game is like a final for us,” Talay said.

“We need to win the game, we need to get three points to stay with the group.”

Despite the importance of the match ahead, the Phoenix will be disadvantaged from the get-go. Star striker Gary Hooper is only now returning from injury, and will not be available to start against the Roar.

Talay said he wanted to take calculated risks with players considering what was at stake.

“(Hooper) plays an important role in the team so we’ll see how we can use him, but I’m not sure if he can play a full half,” Talay said.

“That little niggle against Melbourne City has hindered him.

“At this stage, I don’t think he’s up for 45 minutes.”

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Without Hooper, the side will most likely line up with playmaker and top scorer Ulises Dávila behind David Ball, with Jausha Sotirio and Callum McCowatt on the flanks. This was how the Phoenix went up against the Melbourne Victory, the sole game so far this season in which they have gained points.

Another option is striker Ben Waine, a youngster who has a lot of hype surrounding him. He scored two goals for the Phoenix Reserves against Team Wellington last weekend, further adding to the hype.

“I’ve been very happy with Waine, he has been doing very well for us lately, not to mention how he scored a lot of goals in preseason,” Talay said.

“But at this stage, I have a belief in consistency with certain players, and I think we need to create consistency to get players playing together.

“But look, Waine’s doing a great job, and he’s one of those players whose time will come.”

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So sorry #WaineTrain fans, for the moment it looks as if Talay will stay with his preferred attacking options of Sotirio, McCowatt, Ball, and Hooper.

Defence has been a sore spot for the Phoenix this year, but Talay has the belief things will get better.

He said the side conceded three identical goals against Melbourne City, Western United and Perth Glory.

“That’s something we try to nullify and work on in training, and the players now have a better understanding of what their roles are, and I think the defence is becoming better each day,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve struggled defensively.”

Phoenix captain and defender Steven Taylor exuded confidence towards the side’s match again Roar despite the Nix’s sluggish start.

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Taylor said the side felt more solid this year after giving away too many chances in 2018/19 through the transition.

“Throughout the side, we have more possession than we did then we had last year.

“It’s only a matter of time until we get that first win under our belt and go on a winning run.”

Taylor sent a strong message to fans ahead of the weekend’s match.

“I want to see the fans in full force, I want to see them noisy for 95 minutes,” he said.

“Let’s make Wellington an uncomfortable place, a fortress, for other teams.”

Featured image credit: Cameron McIntosh

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Dan Moskovitz
Dan Moskovitz
The Football Sack's resident teen kiwi football nut. Loves everything football except defeats.

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