October 24,2013 16:48

Returning All Whites boost Phoenix

Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has no doubt his travel-weary All Whites will step up for Sunday's second-round A-League clash with Western Sydney Wanderers.

Andrew Durante, Glen Moss, Jeremy Brockie and Leo Bertos have travelled for nearly 30 hours to reach Sydney following New Zealand's scoreless draw against Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain tr90 ageloc .

Although Bertos is in some doubt, still nursing an infected toe, Merrick expects the other three to slot back in smoothly.

While Wellington's defence will be boosted by the return of captain Durante, Merrick's efforts to fill the problematic right back spot look set to continue.

Louis Fenton is at least a week away from returning after dislocating his shoulder in the pre-season and youngster Luke Adams, playing out of position in last week's injury time 2-1 loss to Brisbane Roar, has been dropped.

Merrick is keeping his options open as late as possible, with Bertos, Albert Riera and Josh Brindell-Smith all chances to startWomen casual wear.

Tempting as it might be, Merrick says he's not going to risk messing with his midfield and shift Manny Muscat back.

"I was really happy with the way our midfield controlled much of the game last week against the Roar. That combination of Manny Muscat, Vinny Lia and Carlos Hernadez is really working for us," he said.

The Wanderers undoubted strength up front will be a huge challenge, Merrick added.

"They've got Mark Bridge on the left, Youssouf Hersi on the right and Labinot is a worker centrally.

"Often one of the midfielders gets forward, either Aaron Mooy or Shinji Ono, and there's no doubt they've got good players on the flanks who come inside to good scoring positions."

The Wanderers drew 1-1 with champions Central Coast Mariners last weekend and Merrick acknowledges they present a huge challenge in their first home game of the season in front of a sell-out crowd at Pirtek Stadium.

"There's a reason why the Wanderers were in the grand final last year... It'll be a baptism of fire for our boys."

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