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Phoenix ready to get back to basics

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 17/02/2017 Cathy Walshe

Midfielder Vince Lia. © Mark Tantrum/Getty Images Midfielder Vince Lia. Veteran midfielder Vinnie Lia doesn't pull any punches in describing Wellington Phoenix's 3-1 loss to A-League leaders Sydney FC last week.

"It was pretty poor, probably the worst game of the season," he said.

But Lia is equally confident the eighth-placed Phoenix can bounce back on Saturday when they host fourth-ranked Melbourne City at Westpac Stadium.

He says co-coaches Chris Greenacre and Des Buckingham have worked hard on Wellington's defensive structure since taking over from Ernie Merrick in December.

"Des and Greenie have worked very thoroughly on our defensive shape and making sure everyone knew their roles.

"I think we've gone away from that solid structure - the boys have stopped doing their jobs for whatever reason, and it's not good enough."

Wellington face a City outfit rejuvenated by the return of six players from suspension, and boosted by Saturday's gritty 2-2 draw with Brisbane Roar.

Melbourne will be missing key players Ivan Franjic and Michael Jakobsen to injury, but Lia says they still present a formidable challenge.

"I think they'll take some confidence from last week - they had eight or nine players out, and came back from 2-0 down," he said.

"We know they're a good team, and the calibre of players they've got coming back is testament to their depth."

Wellington have problems of their own, with skipper Andrew Durante out serving a one-match suspension and Brazilian midfielder Gui Finkler on two weeks' leave following the birth of his daughter.

But striker Shane Smeltz returns from suspension, and defender Marco Rossi has shaken off the calf strain which meant he missed the Sydney FC match.

The Phoenix have managed just one point from the 12 on offer over the last four weeks, and desperately need a win to get their season back on track.

Lia says consistency, particular on defence, will be key.

"We've probably been too erratic in our defending - trying to win the ball back when we're not set up.

"It's about being patient, getting them into the areas we want, and when we win the ball back it's about exploiting the space they've left," he said.

"They do attack with a lot of numbers, which means they leave space in behind. We've got to be good enough to exploit that."


* Melbourne City have won five of their last six A-League games against Wellington Phoenix, but are winless in their last seven games away from home.

* Wellington have scored just one second half goal in their last four A-League games, and that was a penalty.

* The Phoenix will be looking for back-to-back wins against Melbourne opposition in the A-League for the first time since January 2014 after a 3-0 win against Victory last month.

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