Phoenix set to welcome back stars
Wellington Phoenix are set to return to full strength for their A-League clash against champions Brisbane Roar on Sunday.
The A-League club's New Zealand internationals have come through their two World Cup qualifiers against Tahiti almost unscathed, with goalkeeper Mark Paston (foot) being reduced to a bench-warming role in Papeete on Saturday and Christchurch on Tuesday.
But Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert expects the 35-year-old shot-stopper to be OK for Sunday's showdown at Westpac Stadium, with All Whites team-mate Glen Moss – who took over the goalkeeping duties against Tahiti – ready to step up if Paston's fitness fails him.
"Mark should be OK. He warmed up (Tuesday) night a lot more comfortable than what he has been. I would think he would be fine for Sunday," Herbert said.
"(Moss) hasn't played many (games). He's had a couple of games (for New Zealand). But if Mark is OK Mark will play on Sunday."
None of the All Whites players or Solomon Islands international Benjamin Totori were at Phoenix training on Wednesday.
But Herbert expected Leo Bertos, Tony Lochhead, Ben Sigmund and Jeremy Brockie to slot straight back into the starting 11.
"I probably don't see the side being any different than maybe the opening game against Sydney," the Phoenix coach said.
"Paul (Ifill) probably comes into the equation a lot more strongly than he did then but I don't think it will be too far away from that."
Herbert had yet to speak with Totori but said his heart was 'probably a wee bit broken' following the Solomon Islands' 5-0 loss to New Caledonia.
Ifill, who was on the bench for the Sydney game, was also absent from the training session as he attended a function at Government House on behalf of the club.
Herbert revealed the striker, who lasted the full 90 minutes against Melbourne Heart last weekend as he continues his comeback from knee and ankle injuries, was also nursing a 'niggly groin'.
"I don't think that's an issue," said Herbert, who watched the 1-1 draw with 10-man Heart on TV just hours after arriving back in New Zealand.
"Paul probably had to go 90 minutes which wasn't ideal for him just physically. He's got through it and I think he'll be OK for the weekend. He's probably more than likely to start."
If that is the case then Totori, who started the season opener against Sydney, is likely to be the player who misses out given his involvement in the Solomons' two qualifiers - they lost the other one 6-2 to New Caledonia - and the form of up-and-comer Louis Fenton.
"He's probably been through two 90 minutes of international football so it could be quite draining for him," Herbert said.
"If you get a really good 60 or 70 minutes out of Ifill and you've got Totori coming on, or even Louis coming on, you've got some players that are going to keep causing teams some problems. We probably haven't had that before."