Ufuk Talay says his Wellington Phoenix team are excited to make history when they play Melbourne Victory for a place in the FFA Cup Final.
The Phoenix are in unchartered territory, playing their first ever semi-final, but Talay is confident his squad won’t be flustered by the opportunity in front of them.
“The players are very excited about the occasion,” Talay told reporters in his pre-match press conference.
“It’s not every season we get to play in the semi-finals so for us it’s a big occasion and we’re looking forward to it.
“We have the chance to make a final and win a trophy so it’s very important for us.”
“We’ll focus on our performance again and for me, if we perform well eight out of 10 times we’ll get the result that we’ll need.”
Talay will be without the services of both Tim Payne and Clayton Lewis, who are both on All-Whites duty, so Nicolas Pennington will return to the starting line-up after being dropped for last week’s A-League Men’s clash with Western Sydney Wanderers.
“I felt bad for Nico not starting last week because I thought he played well but I had to make a decision on what was best at that time for the team.
“He’ll get a chance to go out there and play tomorrow.”
Talay will also be without new signing Scott Wootton, who is continuing his recovery from a quad strain, but there is positive news regarding ‘keeper Oli Sail, who could return from his long term injury next weekend.
“I can’t see Scotty playing in this game… He’s progressing well but still hasn’t been with the group so I still think it’s too early for him.
“I’m hoping Oli will be available for next weekend. He just needs to tick a few more boxes and then he should be available for the weekend after.
“He’s been training fully, the only thing we haven’t done with him is long kicks at the moment with his hip flexor.”
Focusing on his opposition, Talay admitted that his side may have to be patient and persistent in trying to create chances against Tony Popovic’s outfit.
“For me they’re a very defensive team.
They’re a very good team in transition and that’s what you need to be when you’re a defensive side.”
“They attack with four players, sometimes maybe Brillante or one of the other midfield players may join in but they heavily rely on their wingers to create opportunities one-v-one, take players on and beat them.”
2It’s not an easy team to break down, they haven’t conceded a lot of goals from open play this season so it’s not going to be easy to break them down but I still think we’re able to do that.”
Following his goal last week, Talay hopes Gael Sandoval can try and help unlock the stubborn Victory defence.
“Experienced players are important for us and experienced players play an important role in the team”
“Gael scoring that goal gave us an extra 15 minutes [with him] in that game that we probably wouldn’t have got if he hadn’t of scored so we’re slowly trying to build him up at the same time and hopefully he’s influential like he was in the last game.”
The semi-final will take place in Geelong at GMBHA Stadium and the winners will be rewarded with progression to the final on Saturday, February 5 where they will face the Central Coast Mariners.
Should Victory win, the final will be played at AAMI Park, but if the Phoenix progress, the showpiece event will head to Gosford and Central Coast Stadium.