Buoyant Phoenix host slumping Wanderers

Wellington coach Ufuk Talay lauded the Phoenix's defence in their 2-1 road upset of Adelaide United.
Wellington coach Ufuk Talay lauded the Phoenix's defence in their 2-1 road upset of Adelaide United.

Wellington could go from A-League cellar-dwellers to fourth place inside the space of a week if victorious against a slumping Western Sydney, vindicating the patience shown by new coach Ufuk Talay.

After becoming the first Phoenix team to lose their opening four games, Talay's men have picked up seven points from their past three and are confident they can continue their roll in Auckland on Saturday.

Two teams on opposite trajectories will meet at Eden Park.

While the Phoenix are coming off a stunning 2-1 road upset of Adelaide United, Markus Babbel's fourth-placed Wanderers have lost three on the trot, spoiling the three successive wins first-up.

Last week's 2-0 loss to Newcastle was Western Sydney's least impressive display this season, hardly a good omen heading to New Zealand's most famous sports venue, where the Phoenix are unbeaten in the four games they've taken there.

After awarding his team 10 out of 10 for their performance against the Reds, Talay said confidence was riding high.

"We're never cocky, we're always grounded. There's a long way to go," he told journalists.

"It was always going to take time for the players to click. Even when we lost four games on the trot, I kept that consistency going because I believe the players need to play together to understand each other."

The inter-passing on attack in Adelaide was on a different level to anything seen from Wellington this season - or in just about any other.

They looked even better when marquee striker Gary Hooper played out the last 25 minutes.

Talay hoped the Englishman would clock up more minutes this week but it would be from the bench again as he returns to full fitness.

Mexican Ulises Davila has been a regular goal threat, registering five times in the past six games.

Talay said the defence had progressed, lauding last week's success in shutting down Reds stars Riley McGree and James Troisi.

They're still to record a clean sheet but the coach believes that isn't far off.

"Elite athletes are built on confidence. When you win games, people feel more sure about themselves and want to get on the ball," he said.

"Against Adelaide, you look at the players, everyone wanted to get on the ball. But I told them there's still a lot of room for improvement."

Wellington's previous game at Eden Park was a 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory in February.

That match drew a club record crowd of nearly 24,000 and Talay hoped for something similar, pointing out that keeping the Auckland market engaged was crucial in a country boasting only one fully professional soccer club.

Australian Associated Press