Western United will make the trip across the Tasman to face Wellington Phoenix in Round 16 of the Isuzu UTE A-League Men season.
Isuzu UTE A-League Men Round 16
Wellington Phoenix vs Western United
Saturday, 10 February
Kick-off: 3:30pm AEDT (5:30pm local time)
Sky Stadium, Wellington
Broadcast: The match will be broadcast live on Paramount+
Western United Team News
Rhys Bozinovski is back in John Aloisi’s extended squad after missing the last two matches with a muscle injury.
The young midfielder returns to contention alongside James Donachie, who could be set to make his first Isuzu UTE A-League appearance in a Western United shirt.
Young full-back Charbel Shamoon is named in the extended squad for the first time and will be hoping to make it an extra special 20th birthday with a possible professional debut on the cards.
Aloisi has so far handed seven senior debuts to Western United Academy products in competitive games this season, with a number of young players featuring in the squad again.
Western United squad: 1. Tom HEWARD-BELLE (gk), 4. James DONACHIE, 6. Tomoki IMAI, 7. Ramy NAJJARINE, 8. Lachie WALES, 9. Michael RUHS, 11. Daniel PENHA, 13. Nikita RUKAVYTSYA, 17. Ben GARUCCIO, 19. Josh RISDON, 21. Sebastian PASQUALI, 22. Kane VIDMAR, 29. Charbel SHAMOON, 32. Angus THURGATE, 33. Matt SUTTON (gk), 36. Zach LISOLAJSKI, 38. Noah BOTIC, 39. Matthew GRIMALDI, 42. Rhys BOZINOVSKI, 44. Jordan LAUTON
Last time out
Western United played out a thriller in Hobart last time out, coming from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Sydney FC.
Noah Botic and Ben Garuccio struck either side of half-time before United had chances to go on and win it, ultimately settling for a point.
Western United has a long history with Wellington Phoenix, going back to the Club’s first ever game back in November 2019.
A goal from Besart Berisha secured a 1-0 win on that day, but the Phoenix seemingly took that result personally as they went on to win six of the next seven meetings.
United broke its Wellington hoodoo at the perfect time in May 2022 with a 1-0 Elimination Final win on the way to winning the Isuzu UTE A-League Championship.
Western United and Wellington traded wins last season and the Phoenix have an early advantage this season having defeated the Green and Black in Ballarat in Round 6.
Key Matchup: Tomoki Imai vs Kosta Barbarouses
Tomoki Imai will move to 99 Isuzu UTE A-League appearances for Western United in this game, and he will likely spend most of his time ensuring he keeps Kosta Barbarouses at bay.
The Wellington attacker has been in resurgent form this season with eight goals and four assists – both totals which rank him in the top 10 in the competition in those respective metrics.
Imai is the only Western United outfielder to have played every single minute of the season so far and has remained as dependable as ever at the back for Aloisi’s side.
The Japanese defender continues to put his body on the line to defend for his team and will be desperate to help shut out Barbarouses and the Wellington attack in pursuit of three points.
Western United Player to Watch: Noah Botic
Back among the goals with a deadly finish last week, Noah Botic will be looking to continue growing from strength to strength in this season and deliver another positive display against Wellington.
Just passed his 22nd birthday, Botic has featured in every single game for United this season and is a constant threat to opposition defences.
Continuing to develop into one of Australia’s most exciting young attackers, Botic will be on the hunt for more goals across the ditch to boost his personal tally, and of course to help the Green and Black scoop up three points.
Words from John Aloisi
On the positive impact from the young players that have been given opportunities to impress
“It’s really pleasing for the Club in general. It’s been a shift that we made sure we focused on this season. We talk about the players that have made their debut this season, but there are also players starting week in, week out that only made their debut last season or the season before.
“We don’t want them here just to make up numbers, we want them pushing to play week in, week out, and when the chance does come along to play – they’re ready for it.”
On facing up against the league-leading Wellington Phoenix
“They’re a team with confidence. They’re a team that believe in themselves and what they’re doing. They can press you at certain times and they can also sit deep and let you have the ball at other times.
“With the ball, if you give them the opportunity – they’ve got players that can hurt you. We played against them earlier on in the season in Ballarat, and we felt that we played quite well against them. If we can play that way, we hope that we can get the result that we want.”