Jeronimo to miss return duel

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 24/02/2013

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The "hostile" reception planned for Jeronimo Neumann will have to wait for another day.

A stomach bug has forced the controversial Adelaide United star striker to withdraw from today's A League encounter against the Wellington Phoenix in the capital.

Phoenix captain Andrew Durante had predicted a "hostile" reception from the Yellow Fever for Neumann in his first visit to Westpac Stadium.

But the crowd will not be able to focus their attentions on the Argentine striker.

Durante slammed Jeronimo as a "diver" and a "cheat" back in October when his theatrics conned the referee and led to Ben Sigmund being sent off.

The second visit to Hindmarsh Stadium in December was also controversial as Paul Ifill was racially abused by a spectator.

But while Neumann's withdrawal will reduce some tensions, Durante predicted a niggly encounter driven by both teams' desperation for points.

The Phoenix are last on the ladder while fourth-placed Adelaide are excellent at home but winless in their last six away games.

"I think there will be niggle because of the closeness of the end of the season and because everyone desperate for points," Durante said.

With just five wins from 21 games the Phoenix don't deserve to feature in finals calculations.

But the generous top-six playoffs format means they will be in the mix if they can collect a healthy points haul from their three upcoming home games. After today the Phoenix host Newcastle Jets on Wednesday and Melbourne Heart in Dunedin next Sunday.

"Yeah it's kind of funny isn't it, that we've still got a chance to be in the playoffs, considering how poor we've been at times this season," Durante conceded.

"But that's the way the league's set up, six-team finals in a 10-team comp and the finals system is even better this year. It gives the lower-ranked teams probably more of a chance to take out the trophy.

"So I guess that's what we hang onto, that there's always a chance and that's the beauty of the league. I think all the players realise, as a group, that it's almost do-or-die stage."

Inaugural Phoenix captain Ross Aloisi believes Wellington's chances today hinged on the performance of Adelaide goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic.

"If Galekovic is on top of his game I think the Phoenix will find it hard to beat Adelaide," said the retired Aloisi, now coach of West Adelaide.

"Adelaide have got strong strikepower, they've got good wingers, good strikers, good midfielders. Adelaide won both previous match-ups 3-1 this season.

The Phoenix's leading goalscorer, Jeremy Brockie, will return from suspension.

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- Sunday Star Times

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