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ALM Match Preview: Western United vs Wellington Phoenix

Western United A-League Men

Western United returns to Mars Stadium for its third straight home fixture, hoping to get back on track in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men against Wellington Phoenix.

Match Details

Isuzu UTE A-League Men Round 6

Western United vs Wellington Phoenix

Saturday, 2 December

Kick-off: 5:30pm AEDT

Mars Stadium, Ballarat

Broadcast: The match will be broadcast live on Paramount+

Tickets

Membership

Team News

Lachie Wales is set to make his 150th Isuzu UTE A-League appearance this weekend, with the United star hoping to celebrate the milestone with a victory.

The attacker has played the majority of those 150 games in Green and Black having featured for Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne City previously.

John Aloisi has named an unchanged extended squad for the meeting with Wellington and will have plenty of names to choose from in starting positions with the likes of Noah Botic, Riku Danzaki and Kane Vidmar all pushing to return to the XI.

Western United squad: 1. Tom HEWARD-BELLE (gk), 6. Tomoki IMAI, 7. Ramy NAJJARINE, 8. Lachie WALES, 9. Michael RUHS, 10. Steven LUSTICA, 11. Daniel PENHA, 13. Nikita RUKAVYTSYA, 17. Ben GARUCCIO, 19. Josh RISDON, 21. Sebastian PASQUALI, 22. Kane VIDMAR, 24. Connor O’TOOLE, 27. Jacob TRATT, 32. Angus THURGATE, 33. Matt SUTTON (gk), 38. Noah BOTIC, 39. Matthew GRIMALDI, 42. Rhys BOZINOVSKI, 77. Riku DANZAKI

Full Western United squad

Last time out

Western United put in arguably its best performance of the season last week but was not rewarded for it, falling to a 3-1 defeat against Adelaide United.

Wales equalised early in the second half but a quickfire double put Adelaide back on the front foot, leaving United to regroup and look ahead to this weekend.

Previous Meetings

Western United has enjoyed some of its most famous moments against Wellington while also getting a taste of things the other way around.

United defeated Wellington in its first ever match in 2019 and a 1-0 Elimination Final win set Aloisi’s side on its way to the Championship in 2022.

A stunning 3-2 comeback win was one of the highlights of last season, but all told they are the only three times United has beaten Wellington – the Phoenix have won seven of the previous meetings and the two sides have drawn once.

Key Matchup: Lachie Wales vs Alex Paulsen

On his milestone appearance, Wales will be hoping to score another goal to set his team up for an important victory on Saturday.

Wales has scored twice through five matches so far and is already two goals off his career-best figures for a single season.

Relishing a central role, Wales has been a constant threat to opposition defenders and is getting himself in quality positions to score and create chances for his teammates.

The task doesn’t get any easier for Wales, though, as after coming up against Joe Gauci last week, he will have to find a way past arguably the league’s most in-form goalkeeper in Alex Paulsen.

The 21-year-old has been a match-winner on more than one occasion for Wellington this season, including last week when his penalty save helped his side secure a 1-0 win over Melbourne City.

Remarkably, that was already Paulsen’s second penalty save of the campaign and the young shot stopper also ranks third in save percentage and second in goals against per 90 minutes this season.

Wales will be well up to the task, though, and he can breach Wellington’s brick wall then he could be on track for a memorable display in Ballarat.

Player to Watch: Daniel Penha

Daniel Penha is continuing to increase his fitness and his understanding of Western United’s game style and his improving his performances each and every week.

The Brazilian was close to his electric best last week, creating a number of chances for his teammates and causing problems for Adelaide’s defence all game long.

The scary prospect is that Penha will only continue to get better, and he will be one to watch this weekend as he hopes to score his first Western United goal.

Penha scored his first goal in the Isuzu UTE A-League against Wellington two seasons ago and racked up two goals and three assists against the Phoenix in three meetings during his time at Newcastle Jets.

If that is anything to go by, Western United’s No.11 is set to bring the heat at Mars Stadium on Saturday.

Words from John Aloisi

On the main message during the week after last week’s performance against Adelaide

“We all saw how many chances we created and we should’ve won the game, but this week it’s been about making sure we’re hard to beat, and that desperation in defending.

“It feels like we’re getting punished for every little thing at the moment going the other way, but we’re trying to change the players’ mindset around that – let’s make our luck. Let’s make it that the luck is going our way, and to do that is by being desperate and then keep on creating chances.”

On the players needing to continue to believe in their strong performances

“The boys need to believe that the goals will come, that’s the biggest thing. I know what it’s like as a striker – when you think the ball is going into the net, it normally does.

“I don’t care if a player misses a chance, I care if a player stops believing he’s going to score and stops being confident.

Words from the playing squad – Lachie Wales

On the confidence that the team can turn the recent run of results around

“I think we can definitely turn it around. The performances, especially in the last two games, have been good and a few moments in both boxes have probably cost us those games.

“There’s no lack of confidence. It’s something we can take and learn and move forward onto this week.”

On the togetherness of the group remaining important through this period

“Just watching some of the clips back and seeing it on video is probably a bit confronting for some of the boys to see themselves when you could probably make a tackle or sprint back into position.

“It’s in there, they’re a good group of lads and we’ll stick together and keep fighting. That’s been the biggest thing to see from the games, we haven’t given up. It’s just about taking those big moments and not losing discipline, not losing confidence, keep working and keep positive and things will turn.”