Rising Phoenix face cellar-dweller threat

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 09/12/2012
Stein Huysegems
KENT BLYCHENDEN/Fairfax NZ
ON THE BALL: Phoenix striker Stein Huysegems attempts to get the ball under control during the 1-0 home victory over Western Sydney Wanderers.

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Returning Phoenix striker Stein Huysegems has placed importance on today exposing a Sydney FC side "falling behind".

This afternoon's match at Westpac Stadium sees Sydney arrive with the simple goal of getting off the foot of the A-League table, while the Phoenix eye a place in the top four.

Huysegems, who has made a good impression since arriving this season, and is back in the starting lineup after injury, says Sydney's struggles - despite signing Italian World Cup winner Alessandro Del Piero who is now out injured - reflect a finely balanced competition.

"If you go for a couple of games without winning, you start falling behind, and that's exactly the situation Sydney find themselves in right now," Huysegems told the Sunday Star-Times.

"I didn't really know much about the league before I came here; in Europe you don't hear very much about the A-League. I knew very little.

"But the standard is good, and any team can win on their day. It's a level and physical league.

"This next game is really important for us to get a win, and maybe get up to fourth place in the league.

"From the last three games we've won seven points, so another three this weekend would make a good run.

"In my opinion there's not one team which is the favourite to win the championship, there are quite a lot of teams capable of doing it."

After scoring on debut - against Sydney in a 2-0 opening round win - Huysegems has continued to impress, but has played less than 10 minutes of the last two games due to injury.

The injury-enforced layoff has been a frustrating interruption to form, but Huysegems says he's back to full fitness and ready to continue building on a good start to his Phoenix career.

"The injury is good, I'm back to 100% and played last week. There's no pain any more, so that's good," he said. "I only played five minutes in the game against Western Sydney; we didn't want to risk making the injury worse. It was good to come on, but it's always frustrating when you can't start a game.

"I've scored a couple of goals already so that's been really important. When a striker comes to a new club it is always good for them to get some confidence immediately.

"When the sun's shining, Wellington is beautiful. But it can be very windy and then it's not so nice - it's not an easy place for visiting teams to come.

"I'm enjoying it here and the aim is to be in the top six at the end of the season, and from there it's about winning as many games as you can. If you have some good days in the playoffs, who knows?

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"Winning the title is not something we talk about, we just want to win a lot of games and give ourselves a chance."

- Sunday Star Times

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