Phoenix prepare for Wanderers

Chris Greenacre says it will be a step into the unknown when Wellington Phoenix meet Hyundai A-League newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday.

Chris Greenacre says it will be a step into the unknown when Wellington Phoenix meet Hyundai A-League newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday.

The Wanderers have pulled together a squad that mixes experienced Hyundai A-League players like Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Adam D'Apuzzo, Tarek Elrich and Shannon Cole, with imports Iacopo La Rocca, Jerome Polenz, Mateo Poljak and Dino Kresinger, as well as young Australians Reece Caira, Aaron Mooy and Kwabena Appiah-Kubi.

But aside from seeing the squad list, not much else is known about the way Tony Popovic's side will approach the game in Christchurch.

"We don't know what to expect," Phoenix assistant coach Greenacre said.

"We've an idea with the personnel that they've recruited. They've recruited some real quality players and it's going to be good to see what they're about with a great coach in Tony Popovic. It will be really interesting."

For the Phoenix, Sunday's game is just a step up in preparation for the A-League season opener against Sydney FC in Wellington on October 6 after a successful tour of India and some hit-outs against local Wellington sides.

"Although it's an A-League team it's about us preparing for the season and in all fairness this game doesn't really count," Greenacre said.

"It's about two or three weeks' time when we play Sydney at home.

"We need to play A-League teams. We want to play A-League teams and the best teams. That's the best preparation you can give yourself for the upcoming season."

While the Phoenix owners have not splurged the cash during the off-season, they have recruited players with pace and goal-scoring abilities in New Zealand international Jeremy Brockie, Solomon Islands forward Benjamin Totori and Belgian international Stein Huysegems.

The promotion of striker Tyler Boyd and midfielder Louis Fenton, who are attacking-minded and quick, from the club's school of excellence to A-League Under-21 contracts will also provide extra depth to an area where coach Ricki Herbert has relied heavily on Paul Ifill and Dani Sanchez to be the side's playmakers.

"Although you say it (the player signings) give us the pace and creativity, it also means if you're not playing well you're not going to be in the team and I think that's great for us," Greenacre said.

"We've never had that ever since I arrived at the club. The team has more or less picked itself. Now we've got one or two numbers for different positions.

"(Ricki) has clearly stated if players aren't up to fitness or they haven't trained in the week then they won't play.

"Hopefully it makes the players hungry. Hopefully that will add a little bit of a different dynamic to the way we play."

With Ifill (knee and ankle), Vince Lia and Jimmy Downey (both knee) all set to return to action soon and Sanchez (knee) to make his comeback some time in November, it is a far cry from last year when the Phoenix were struggling to even scrape a fit squad together.

"It's fantastic compared to last season when at times you were trying to put sessions together and you'd only got seven players and were thinking 'oh, what are we doing here?' Greenacre said.

"To see that we've got that kind of strength and depth with people like Paul, Dani, Vinnie and Jimmy to come back it's quite exciting for us as coaches."