Soccer: Roar have no fears of Wellington

By Daniel Richardson

Besart Berisha and Mitchell Nichols of the Roar celebrate a goal during the round 2 A-League match between Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory. Photo / Getty Images
Besart Berisha and Mitchell Nichols of the Roar celebrate a goal during the round 2 A-League match between Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory. Photo / Getty Images

Aside from being the two-time defending A-League champions with a great roster and a sharp coach, the Brisbane Roar also have something else going for them - they don't hold any major fears of playing against the Phoenix in Wellington.

Travelling across the Tasman to meet the Phoenix at Westpac Stadium is the most hated away trip in the A-League and some teams couldn't make their displeasure more obvious.

The Newcastle Jets have lost eight of their nine games in Wellington, while in week one of this season Sydney FC captain Terry McFlynn showed the enthusiasm of a schoolboy on his way to a lunch-time detention at the post-match press conference.

It's a tricky task playing in Wellington; the weather's colder, the fans get on your back and the Phoenix seem to find another level when they play at their home ground.

But, for all the dominance that the Phoenix have enjoyed at the Cake Tin in recent years, Brisbane just seem to treat it like another away game.

It's almost like a business transaction for them.

Last season Brisbane beat the Phoenix 2-0 at Westpac Stadium, while they also touched up the Wellingtonians 4-1 in the 2010-2011 campaign.

On Sunday the Phoenix will have a chance to put a mark next to their name on the ledger when they host the Roar at their Westpac Stadium fortress.

Phoenix midfielder Manny Muscat said the Roar, who hammered Melbourne Victory 5-0 last weekend, didn't appear to be intimidated by the trek to Wellington.

"They've got a couple of points when they've come here. I think they won 2-0 last year when they came here. But, then again, we've beaten them as well.

We're going to approach the game ... like we always do and come out firing and take the game to them," Muscat said.

"They played some good football on the weekend against Victory. They're the benchmark in the league in passing, so it will be a big test for us, so hopefully we can match them."

Muscat's long-telegraphed move to the centre of midfield has been one of the season's features for the Phoenix, who have taken four points of a possible six from their opening two games.

The 27-year-old laid on two assists in the season-opening 2-0 victory over Sydney FC, while his tough tackling is always helpful on defence.

After collecting eight caps for Malta since his international debut in 2009, Muscat hasn't been called upon lately by new manager Pietro Ghedin.

"I haven't had any contact with the MFA. I'm not the one to call them up and say 'what's going on?'. They know what I'm about and when the opportunity comes I'll assess it and take it from there, but I still haven't met the new coach that's stepped in. They've been getting some fair results so it's hopefully a matter of time and I'll definitely put my hand up to play for my national team."

The Phoenix appear likely to revert to type, with their starting XI for Sunday set to resemble the side who beat Sydney in the opening game of the season.

Winger Paul Ifill may be included to start, as he did for a severely depleted Phoenix outfit in last weekend's 1-1 draw against the Melbourne Heart, but coach Ricki Herbert will have a full contingent of internationals to pick from.

Mark Paston is expected to line up in goal, despite a foot infection keeping him out of the two All Whites' outings against Tahiti during the past week.

- APNZ

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