Toss out your calculator if you're a Wellington Phoenix
fan. Don't even bother trying to work out all the playoff
permutations because it has reached the point where it's pretty
simple: The Phoenix have to win.
If the struggling franchise want to qualify for the
uber-generous finals series that the A-League offers up, the
next eight days will decide their fate.
They have three home games during the next week-and-a-bit,
and if they lose one of them their season is all but cooked.
Frankly, so it should be.
The Wellingtonians start their busy stretch with an outing
against Adelaide United at Westpac Stadium on Sunday - a
venue the South Australians haven't played at since 2009 or
won at since 2007.
The Phoenix follow that up with a midweek showdown at the
Cake Tin with the Newcastle Jets on Wednesday before they
host the eighth-placed Melbourne Heart in Dunedin next
Wellington trail Newcastle, who occupy sixth place on the
A-League ladder, by six points, and Phoenix skipper Andrew
Durante said it was about time the team showed some fight,
starting against Adelaide on Sunday.
"I think the players realise as a group it's almost the
do-or-die stage," he said.
"There's always the talk of 'must-win situations' and there's
only six games left so we're kind of getting to that stage
and I think we realise that. Back home now and it's just got
to be a good performance and three points."
It almost doesn't seem fair that Wellington can make the top
six given the season they've had, a sentiment that wasn't
lost on Durante.
"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," he said.
"But that's the way the league's set up; six-team finals in a
10-team comp and the finals system's even better this year.
It gives the lower-ranked team probably even more of a chance
to take out the trophy, so I guess that's what we hang on -
that there's always a chance - and I guess that's the beauty
of the league. So it's good if you're at the bottom."
Aside from the pressure of trying to salvage something from
their season, certain Phoenix players are also playing for
their future at the club with a host of squad members off
contract at season's end.
"They want to be here, there's no question about it," Durante
"All the players that are off contract really want to be
here, which is a good thing and I guess they're playing for
their futures. A lot of them have families and wives and
stuff and it's a tough time. Contract time's a difficult time
and the sooner they get sorted probably the better for
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert is likely to be without
midfielder Isaka Cernak for Sunday's game against Adelaide
due to a hip flexor injury.
In his typically-evasive fashion surrounding player
selection, Herbert wouldn't indicate the make-up of the side
if Cernak was to be scratched.
Leading goal-scorer Jeremy Brockie returns to the fold for
the Phoenix after missing last weekend's 2-0 loss to the
Brisbane Roar due to suspension and would be a logical
replacement for Cernak, although that could create a
reshuffle of the midfield and strikers.
Goalkeeper Mark Paston, who was dropped to the bench for last
week's game, didn't train today (Fri) due to the flu but was
expected to take his place on the pine on Sunday.