Heart wary of the danger in depleted Phoenix

MELBOURNE Heart is well aware of the potential banana skin that a ravaged Wellington Phoenix side, which will field as many as four debutants, represents when it lines up at AAMI Park on Sunday.

Wellington, impressive 2-0 winners over Sydney in round one, has been gutted by the demands of the New Zealand national team, which has taken six of its players, and the Solomon Islands side, which has called up Benjamin Totori.

”We have got to approach the game as if it’s a normal match,” said Heart’s former English Premier League midfielder Richie Garcia.

”The players who come into the side will be doubly eager to impress and hold their position. They looked like a very hard-working and physical team against Sydney and it will be a difficult task for us.”

For several seasons, Paul Ifill, who played at Millwall, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace. has been the Phoenix’s go-to man and Garcia, who played at West Ham and Hull City in England, knows all about him.

”We have come up against each other in the past,” he said. ”He has done well wherever he has gone, he has always scored goals, so he will be a very dangerous player we have to watch in this match.”

For Garcia, the slower rhythms of the A-League are something he is still getting used to. The wait for the season to start seemed interminable and, even now, he is restless because he has to wait nine days to play his second game. It’s certainly another world to the hurly-burly of the Premiership, and the even busier Championship, where league and cup games come thick and fast.

”It’s odd for me. Normally we have played three games [in the first week of a new season] by now and you are tired and can’t move,” said Garcia. ”I am used to being a lot busier, but as I have been told, when all the travelling starts I will probably be grateful for the recovery time. But the travel won’t be a problem. I am going to have to get used to it but when I have been on international duty I have played in Australia then flown back to England and played the next day.”

Garcia said he was surprised by the intensity and speed of Friday’s season-opener against Victory.

”It was quite a fast-paced game, quite intense. I was expecting it to be a bit slower, so that was good for me that it was at high intensity,” he said. ”Maybe there were a few more turnovers, but that’s what you expect when the game is played at a good pace. Players always want to play in front of big crowds and the atmosphere was great, and the crowd.”

Although he struggled with injuries in his final seasons in England, Garcia, who played for the Socceroos in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, said his body was at a good stage and he was enjoying the deeper midfield role he had been asked to occupy by John Aloisi.

”I am growing into my new role and enjoying it, but I want to chip in with a few goals as well, I don’t want to lose that from my game,” he said.

”Defending is something new for me, but I made my debut at centre midfield for West Ham and played for the state team in WA as a kid in that position, so I know it.

”When you get off to a winning start it always brings confidence. It’s just a matter of going back to back this weekend.”

WEEK TWO(All games on Fox Sports) ADELAIDE UTD v WANDERERSHindmarsh Stadium, 7.30pm The Reds defied expectations with a 2-0 away win in round one against a fancied Newcastle. Not bad considering they had only just arrived back in the country after an Asian Champions League quarter-final a few days earlier. Dario Vidosic netted the first that day, but he is an absentee tonight through injury. WSW ground out a scoreless draw in its first game against Central Coast and will be better for the run. Japanese star Shinji Ono could start this time, but even his presence might not be enough to stop the Adelaide gaining another three points.

SYDNEY FC v JETSSydney Football Stadium, tomorrow, 5.30pm The game all Sydney has been waiting for since it was announced that Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero was coming to the harbour city. Del Piero created a good impression in his first appearance in last week’s season opener in Wellington, but his teammates didn’t as Sydney crashed to a 2-0 loss. Emile Heskey is the other big name on show in this game, the former English Premiership striker having made his debut for his new team in the surprise loss to Adelaide. Promoters will be hoping both get on the scoresheet. They might, and this game could end in a draw.

ROAR v VICTORYSuncorp Stadium, tomorrow, 7.45pm Another fixture rife with possibility as the FFA’s policy of setting up tantalising matches in the early rounds of the season delivers another potential delight. Ange Postecoglou, Victory’s new coach, returns to the scene of his triumphs having led Brisbane to the past two A-League titles, to face a team now helmed by his former assistant, Rado Vidosic. Victory could struggle without Thompson, Milligan and Rojas, and it would be no surprise to see the Roar get back to its winning ways.

HEART v PHOENIXAAMI Park, Sunday, 3pm Heart has been the best backed team this round, and it is hardly surprising that John Aloisi’s side should be odds-on to record its second win in a row with the Phoenix missing seven first-team squad members because of Oceania World Cup qualifiers over the next week. Heart will be cock-a-hoop after its derby win and can go on with the job here.

MARINERS v GLORYBluetongue Stadium, Sunday, 5pm A game that might offer some measure of revenge for the Mariners, who were defeated at this venue by Perth Glory in the preliminary final last season. The Mariners got off to a stuttering start with a scoreless draw against Wanderers, while Perth got its own form of revenge by defeating reigning premier Brisbane last weekend. Perth these days is tough, organised and competitive home or away but so are the Mariners, who are always difficult to beat. This game could end up with the spoils shared.

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