Hernandez named in Wellington Phoenix squad

Last updated 05:00 14/03/2014
Carlos Hernandez
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Carlos Hernandez has been included in the Wellington Phoenix squad for Sunday's A-League visit to Melbourne Heart.

The midfield maestro has been battling a calf injury but Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick yesterday named him in a 17-man squad for the match at AAMI Park, with one player to be omitted.

The eighth-placed Phoenix train today at Newtown Park before flying to Melbourne tomorrow.

Hernandez earned the ire of Merrick for his petulant reaction to being substituted in the 63rd minute of the Phoenix's 1-1 draw with Perth Glory last Sunday. But Merrick said he would only drop the Costa Rican international for fitness, rather than disciplinary, reasons.

Stein Huysegems, Jason Hicks and Matthew Ridenton are the other options to play in the role should Hernandez be ruled out.

Manny Muscat returns to the squad after serving his suspension.

The Phoenix beat the Heart 1-0 at AAMI Park in December but were pumped 5-0 in last month's second meeting in Wellington.

But Merrick said revenge had not been discussed in the dressing room.

''No, it's not a term we use,'' Merrick said.

''It's about being competitive, it's about doing our jobs individually and collectively. But there's no doubt in the back of their minds, they're thinking this team beat us 5-0 last time and it would be really good to get a win here. But it's about making the finals, that's our focus, and focus on their individual roles and not about the outcome or any over-aggression.''

With five games to go before the top-six finals, the Phoenix sit three points off the playoff pace. They have been ravaged by injury, with Josh Brindell-South the latest to join Paul Ifill, Albert Riera, Louis Fenton, Reece Caira and Leo Bertos in the casualty ward.

But the ever-positive Merrick brushed off a question about whether the season would be considered a failure if they did not qualify.

''I think you're getting into hypotheticals here. We are going to make the finals so I don't actually have to think about that. The opportunity is there for us to take. We don't have to rely on anyone losing a game, it's all about us winning games.''

Meanwhile, Heart coach John van't Schip said his side was wary of a Phoenix backlash from last month's record win in Wellington, where David Williams scored his first A-League hat-trick.

''Everything went our way when we played there,'' van't Schip said.

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''We came ahead very fast, with two goals in 15 minutes and with the speed we have up front, we can really hurt opponents and that's what we did there. 

''But Sunday is going to be a totally different game. We have to start all over again and try to make it as difficult as possible for them and play some good football. I think their confidence has grown as well, after the game that they played against us.''

- The Dominion Post

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