Preview: Men take on table toppers Phoenix

This Friday night, the ladder leaders Wellington Phoenix will head to Allianz Stadium to take on Ufuk Talay’s Sydney FC.

This will be the first time that Talay has taken on his old side since he crossed the ditch this season to join the Sky Blues and he will be coming up against his former assistant Giancarlo Italiano.

Both called Sydney FC home more than five years ago and then moved to Wellington Phoenix where they worked together for four seasons and helped manoeuvre the Phoenix to finals football on three out of the four seasons they worked alongside.

Now on opposite dug-outs, the master will be wanting to prove he still has a few tricks up his sleeve to outsmart the apprentice.

Talay and Italiano at Wellington Phoenix

Last weekend, Talay’s Sydney FC hosted Western United at Allianz Stadium and despite not playing their free flowing best football, managed to make their way to a 4-2 victory, coming from behind after conceding an early goal.

Joe Lolley was up to his usual tricks and he bagged a goal and an assist and was awarded the man of the match award which was well deserved after he netted his fifth and sixth goal of the season, both on his wicked left foot.

Jack Rodwell got on the scoresheet for the first time in the league

For the Wellington Phoenix, they have been travelling well across the Tasman Sea, yet to taste defeat on the road and now prepare to head back overseas on Thursday to take on the Sky Blues.

Last weekend, they hosted the Western Sydney Wanderers at Sky Stadium and scored two late goals in second half stoppage time to ensure Marko Rudan’s side left New Zealand empty handed.

Kosta Barbarouses scored his third goal in two matches and assisted former golfer Ben Old for the sealer as the Yellow Fever were sent into delirium after it appeared the game was destined for a stalemate.

Interestingly this season, Wellington Phoenix appear to be sitting back and absorbing a lot of pressure, happy to not have the ball and happy to hit the opposition on the counter attack. In fact, they boast the lowest expected goals tally after nine rounds of the season so far (11.7) compared to Sydney FC who have the second highest (16.4) behind Adelaide United.

They also don’t have many shots on target per game on average and sit 2nd bottom with a tally of 4.0 per 90 minutes this season.However, they are defensively very solid and have conceded the fewest goals per match with an average of 0.8.

One hero for them has been young goalkeeper Alex Paulsen who has miraculously saved three penalties out of the four that he has faced this year, and should the Sky Blues get the chance from 12 yards, they will need to be wary of this.

Fabio is the last Sydney player to take a penalty which he dispatched in the Australia Cup Final

This will be the first time that these two sides have met this season with last year’s clash at Allianz Stadium ending in chaos. With Wellington Phoenix a goal to the good but down two players, Sydney FC were rampant in attack and were creating plenty of chances but couldn’t find a way through.

They were awarded a penalty in the 97th minute and Adam Le Fondre saw his effort saved by Oli Sail but there was a handball in the aftermath and he had a second chance from 12 yards. This time, his attempt went high and wide in one of the craziest endings to an Isuzu UTE A-League match.

Burgess and Pennington clash in the last meeting at Allianz Stadium

The last time that the Sky Blues played on the 29th of December was a thrilling come from behind victory against Melbourne City in front of a packed Netstrata Jubilee in which now Wellington Phoenix player, Kosta Barbarouses, scored the winner for Steve Corica’s 10 man side.

This time around, with Talay in the Sky Blue corner and Barbarouses in the yellow one, the Head Coach will be hoping to get one over his former assistant and see his side move up two spots on the ladder.

Match Details

Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix
Isuzu UTE A-League Round Ten
Friday 29th December 2023
Allianz Stadium, Sydney, NSW
Kick Off: 7:45pm AEDT
Gates Open: 4:30pm AEDT
Broadcast Live: Paramount+
Tickets: Click Here
Matchday Partner: Navarra Venues