20/04/2024
Whilst Stajcic says he hopes the resolved ownership will bring a level of comfort, it won't change how his team goes about their job on the pitch. PHOTO: Provided.

Whilst Stajcic says he hopes the resolved ownership will bring a level of comfort, it won't change how his team goes about their job on the pitch. PHOTO: Provided.

A 5300km trip between New Zealand’s capital and Western Australia is the backstory behind the famous Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix being labelled the ‘distance derby.’

Yet, distance abroad isn’t the only thing that substantially separates the pair, as the Phoenix stand alone at the top of the summit – 17 points clear of 10th place Perth.

Nix manager Giancarlo Italiano’s tactical nous to adapt to different formations and tactics has them dreaming of a maiden championship, but Alen Stajcic’s men are on a five-game unbeaten streak.

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The last time Perth suffered defeat? A thrilling 4-3 loss at NIB Stadium last month.

Set to face off tomorrow night at the same venue, Perth’s newfound belief on the pitch as well as the settlement of Ross Pelligra’s ownership shapes a fascinating complexity to the encounter.

Stajcic expects a closely fought battle between two sides in the midst of red-hot form.

“Every game is unique, you never know what you’re going to get and you certainly don’t know what you’re going to get when we play at HBF Park,” he said.

“We’re probably the two most in-form teams [in the A-League] at the moment.

“In terms of the last five matches, we’ve picked up the most number of points between us and that shows that it’s going to be a really tight contest, whether that’s tight low-scoring or tight high-scoring.

“They are playing to try and seal top spot in the league and we’re fighting for our lives to start banging on the door of the Finals six.”

The former Central Coast Mariners boss admitted that although he is satisfied with his squad’s recent performances, there is still room for improvement.

“We’ve hit a good vein of form and results are starting to follow, which is good,” he said.

“We all know that we’ve done well, but there’s still a long way to go. The boys have shown that they can focus on the task at hand and the task at hand hasn’t changed.

“It’s great to have new owners and new visions and that stability across the club, but ultimately, what we do on the training field and for matches doesn’t change.”

For the Phoenix, they’re in uncharted territory as they’re coming to terms with their best start to an A-League campaign – leading second-placed Central Coast by five points.

When asked about the potential to claim silverware, Italiano was quick to avoid any extra pressure for his players.

“I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves because what’s worked for us at the start and what’s working for us now is making sure we go game by game and we focus on what we can control,” he said.

“If you’re starting to talk about championships and expectations, it creates an extra layer of complexity that unless you do it, you know how to manage it.”

For the majority of away games this season, Wellington has been willing to hand over possession to the opposition and utilise their strengths in the key moments.

Italiano is aware of Perth Glory’s strengths and has a plan on how to neutralise their weapons.

“Perth like the game stretched in order for Taggart and Williams to make forward runs, especially in the wide areas,” he said.

“It’s important that whatever structure we employ that it negates that, and then we need to restrict them to players that we feel like we can manage.

“We need to ensure that we’re smart in our set-up and putting them into areas they’re not comfortable in; that’s very important and we try to do that every game.”

The match is scheduled to commence at 9:45pm AEDT Saturday night.

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