Experienced pair likely to return for Phoenix

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 11/10/2012
Vince Lia
FAIRFAX NZ
VINCE LIA: "If we have a bad attitude and don't do the things that we need to, it's not going to make a difference."

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Half the Phoenix will be winging their way back from the Pacific but interim coach Chris Greenacre should be able to recall close to 200 games of A-League experience against the Heart in Melbourne on Sunday.

Six All Whites plus coach Ricki Herbert are on World Cup qualifying duty in Tahiti on Saturday; Benjamin Totori is with the Solomon Islands.

It leaves the Phoenix decimated for their round-2 fixture but the likely return to the starting XI of Paul Ifill (74 league games) and Vince Lia (107) will at least partly offset the unfortunate situation.

Ifill (knee, ankle) came off the bench for the last half-hour of the impressive 2-0 season-opening win against Sydney FC last Saturday.

The star winger should be a straight swap for Totori, while Lia (knee) is in line to bolster the midfield as the Phoenix ponder a tweak to their formation.

Lia wasn't part of last Saturday's squad but should he prove his fitness at training today may join Manny Muscat and Alex Smith in a midfield trio to upset the Heart's key playmakers, Fred and Richard Garcia.

"We've known what we're up against for quite a while, and we've just got to accept what's gone on and deal with it," said assistant coach Greenacre.

"Paul and Vinnie have been training OK, so it's good to see those boys back.

"The experience they've got will be invaluable to us, so hopefully we'll get those boys on the park and hopefully starting.

"Their experience is going to be a big key for us. It's just waiting to see and assess where they're at.

"Could they get through 90 minutes, could they get through an hour?"

Greenacre said that in previous seasons the Phoenix had over-rated their abilities and had "got a little bit carried away"on the road. This season the club wanted to be more pragmatic away from their Wellington fortress and "with 10 minutes to go if we have got a draw on the cards we'll look to be professional and take a point".

Defenders Luke Rowe, Cameron Lindsay and Michael Boxall are set to make their Phoenix debuts alongside skipper Andrew Durante, while in goal it is a toss-up between schoolboy Scott Basalaj and Auckland City's Jacob Spoonley.

"Scott is a goalkeeper of the future for the club and he's going to be a long-term goalie for us," Greenacre said. "And everyone knows the qualities of Jacob - he's played in some big games, in the Olympics so the fear factor won't be there for him."

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The Phoenix fly to Melbourne tomorrow and Greenacre hoped to cover his bases with 16 players.

Academy defender Alec Solomons' selection claims are being hindered by a hamstring niggle, while striker Mirjan Pavlovic remains in Sydney and out of the frame after picking up an injury while on loan.

The Phoenix are $5.75 longshots to win at AAMI Park but Greenacre is showing the same fighting spirit as a coach that he displayed as a player.

"We're definitely going there to take points from the game, without a doubt.

"If you're going to make the finals, these are the times where you've got to dig deep and go and take points from games.

"If we can do that, I think it'll really show the rest of the A-League what we're about, and show that we still have that deep togetherness and that will to succeed, no matter what circumstances are thrown at us."

Possible XI: Jacob Spoonley, Luke Rowe, Andrew Durante, Michael Boxall, Cameron Lindsay, Manny Muscat, Vince Lia, Alex Smith, Louis Fenton, Paul Ifill, Stein Huysegems.

- Wellington

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