Ricki Herbert to assess Sanchez's readiness
Ricki Herbert will be in Christchurch tonight to assess midfielder Dani Sanchez's readiness for an A-League comeback when the Wellington Phoenix reserves meet Canterbury United.
Sanchez and All Whites goalkeeper Glen Moss will be among headline acts at the English Park clash.
Moss, Solomon Islands international Benji Totori, 17-year-old striker Tyler Boyd and All Whites centre-back Michael Boxall from the regular Phoenix first team squad will be backing up in Christchurch.
A-League assistant coaches Chris Greenacre and Jonathan Gould will be in charge of the Phoenix Reserves but Herbert will be in the stands.
Sanchez is on the comeback trail after off-season knee surgery and the Spanish-born former Scottish League professional's creative touch has been missed in a midfield more replete with artisans than artistes.
The 28-year-old has the ability to play at the top of the midfield diamond behind the central striker.
Right-sided midfielder or fullback Jimmy Downey is another senior player progressing his match fitness in the reserves ranks while Panamanian striker Ricardo Clarke - signed as short-term injury cover for Sanchez - should also feature.
But the bulk of the squad will be from the Phoenix Academy or from Team Wellington, Canterbury's ASB premiership rivals.
The reserves retinue will include midfielder Tom Biss, 19, and left back Luke Rowe, 21, who made encouraging A-League debuts against Melbourne Heart in October when the clubs' All Whites were absent on international duty.
The Phoenix should field a strong frontline with the promising Boyd backed by Biss, Clarke and Sanchez.
Canterbury United are unlikely to field a full-strength team. Coach Keith Braithwaite plans to rest some player "carrying knocks and a few strains" from their 5-0 win over Waikato FC last weekend.
The potential casualty list includes former All Whites midfielder Aaron Clapham, who many national league observers believe merits a Wellington Phoenix contract.
"Aaron has had a problem with a hip flexor for the last couple of weeks so we'll see how he goes."
Fullback Julyan Collett is also under an injury cloud, and midfielder Darren White has "a couple of tight calves".
Braithwaite is mindful of the need to give the Phoenix reserves a good run but Canterbury's campaign is his key priority.
The Canterbury Dragons play premiership co-leaders Hawke's Bay United at English Park on Sunday.
"I am more worried about keeping people fit and getting a result at the weekend.
"We are looking to play some of our younger players and a few of the lads who haven't played a lot [in the premiership season]."
Goalkeeper Tom Batty, striker Ash Wellbourn, fullback Nick Wortelboer and midfielder Chris Murphy are likely starters.
Braithwaite said both teams could field up to five substitutes.
Kickoff is at 7pm.
- © Fairfax NZ News