Western United need to get fit to survive a final knockout test against Wellington Phoenix.
Western United manager John Aloisi is confident his side can reverse their recent normal form to contend for the A-League championship.
Having been seemingly fixed for so long for at least one spot in the top two in the standings and potentially the premiership, United have only managed one point out of a possible nine in their final three regular season games to finish third.
It means Aloisi’s men’s campaign could end as early as Saturday night if they lose to Wellington Phoenix in a final elimination at AAMI Park.
“We have to focus on ourselves and know that if we play our best we can beat anyone,” said Aloisi.
And that “whoever” includes Phoenix, despite Wellington having won both of his A-League games – including a 4-1 defeat last month – against United this season, as well as six of eight in total against the team. Victorian.
“We must be aware that when we are attacking they have bodies behind the ball, but then they can break very quickly,” said Aloisi.
“They don’t necessarily need to dominate a game to be dangerous, so we’re aware of that and we’ve worked on these things and talked about them.”
United will again be without Italian playmaker star Alessandro Diamanti, who will no longer play this season due to a knee problem, while midfielder Steve Lustica and defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley are also out of the game.
“Yes, we would like a full team, but it’s part of the game: you have to face certain situations and obstacles,” said Aloisi.
“We have been doing well all season and we can’t wait for whoever plays to come out and do the performance we want.
“Whenever we’ve had players out, other players have stepped in and done their job, they know their roles, they know their responsibilities.”
Phoenix manager Ufuk Talay said that despite Wellington’s good record against United, finals football was a “different beast”.
“The game can change very quickly in 90 minutes, so we just have to be prepared for any circumstance, whatever happens, and that we can handle it,” said Talay.
“They are playing in Melbourne and they are a very experienced team who have also had a great season and probably have more players who have played in this type of games before so it will definitely be a challenge.”
Phoenix, who have been back to NSW this season, have the added incentive to play a leg of the double-game semi-final in New Zealand if they beat United.
“The lads are going to be pretty excited and quite excited to know that we will have another game in Wellington once we get past Western United … but the goal is to get the result on Saturday,” said Talay.
Originally published as Western United need a reversal of form to savor success in the A-League final series