Soccer: Merrick waiting on his midfield

Carlos Hernandez missed last Friday's loss to the Glory. Photo / Getty
Carlos Hernandez missed last Friday's loss to the Glory. Photo / Getty

Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick is keen for his midfielders to have a therapeutic night's sleep tonight.

The Scotsman is sweating on the healing powers of Carlos Hernandez (quadriceps), Paul Ifill (groin) and Albert Riera (groin/abdominal) as they look to tomorrow night's home encounter with the Brisbane Roar at Westpac Stadium.

Following last week's 4-2 loss to the Perth Glory in Western Australia, the Phoenix are still without a win from eight games this season and are ninth on the ladder.

Hernandez missed last Friday's loss to the Glory, while Riera and Ifill both had to leave the field in the second spell due to their respective ailments.

"Carlos had a good hit-out today; light but good,'' Merrick said this morning. "Paul Ifill was the same but we really have to see how they come up tomorrow morning. The other one is Albert, he had some treatment during the week so those three we'll make a final call on tomorrow morning.''

Hernandez and Riera are likely bets to start against the dangerous Roar, who sit five points clear at the top of the heap in the competition, while Ifill may revert to his super-sub role.

Depending on who scrubs up well in the morning, Leo Bertos, Jason Hicks and Vince Lia will also come in to consideration to help form Merrick's midfield.

One man who isn't likely to be in there is Manny Muscat with the versatile 29-year-old set to join the defensive line at left back.

Muscat missed last week's plundering in Perth due to suspension and youngster Reece Caira was given a tough examination by the Glory and has dropped out of the squad all together for tomorrow's game.

"I was pretty happy up until last week with how the backline played and Manny just strengthens that,'' Merrick reasoned.

Muscat looked composed during his only appearance at left back this season when the Phoenix held the Western Sydney Wanderers to a 0-0 draw at the Cake Tin two weeks ago.

Despite Brisbane's impressive start to the year, Merrick said his side wouldn't hold back against the league-leaders.

"I think the worst thing you can do is try and defend the whole game against them. You've got to take the game to them and there's always risk because of that. But we did it against the Wanderers here, I thought that was probably our best game.''

Tomorrow signals the start of a tough stretch for the Phoenix who head away to meet the Central Coast Mariners in a catch-up game next Thursday night then host Sydney FC in Wellington the following Sunday.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 28 Nov 2014 14:00:54 Processing Time: 472ms