Italiano explains special focus ahead of Talay reunion

Joanna Guelas |

Giancarlo Italiano (c) will reunite with his old boss Ufuk Talay (r) when the ‘Nix meet Sydney FC.
Giancarlo Italiano (c) will reunite with his old boss Ufuk Talay (r) when the ‘Nix meet Sydney FC.

Wellington coach Giancarlo Italiano won’t be letting the noise around his A-League Men reunion with Sydney FC boss Ufuk Talay distract him from grabbing maximum points.

With six games left of the regular season, the Phoenix are eyeing a maiden premiership title with the 1-0 away loss to Melbourne City last weekend not helping their cause.

Losing their top spot to Central Coast, Wellington have a chance to return to their winning ways, but their former coach Talay stands in their way.

The ‘Nix lost their first meeting with the Sky Blues in late December, unravelling in what was a tactical masterpiece by Talay in a 3-1 defeat.

The fifth-placed Sky Blues have been running hot since, losing one game in 12 matches, and now Talay makes his first overseas flight to see his old side at Eden Park on Saturday.

Still, Italiano is not getting swept up in the rivalry with his old mentor.

“It’s the same as every other game,” Italiano said on Friday.

“I hate to say, I’m like a broken record. For me, this is still three points, no more different than the last game or the game before that.”

Italiano instead has put his focus on performance.

“I don’t think we’d been the best, to be fair, the last couple of weeks,” Italiano said.

“We could do a lot better with a ball … it hasn’t flowed as well as what I expect and what the players expect.

“There’s a higher expectation of the group that they can do a lot better and I think we need to refocus on that and avoid all the talk about what’s happening with the season.

“I keep saying to the players, it’s 45 minutes now, that’s what we’re worried about. At half-time, we worry about the next 45 and that’s all we can control.”

Talay won’t be the only Sky Blue having a reunion.

Young midfielder Max Burgess will also face his former club, having played 23 games for the ‘Nix.

Star Phoenix striker Oskar Zawada remains sidelined with a thigh injury but Italiano is optimistic the Polish import can return for their Brisbane meeting next round.