Melbourne Heart midfielder Richard Garcia denies his team are facing the unknown when they play a decimated Wellington Phoenix on Sunday.
Wellington head into the A-League clash at AAMI Park without first-choice players Leo Bertos, Tony Lochhead, Jeremy Brockie, Ben Sigmund and Mark Paston who have all been called up to represent New Zealand in two World Cup qualifiers against Tahiti over the next five days.
Benjamin Totori is also unavailable as he will play for the Solomon Islands against New Caledonia and the Phoenix will also have to do without Paston’s would-be replacement in goals, Glen Moss, as he has also been drafted into the All Whites squad.
To cap it all off, Wellington coach Ricki Herbert won’t be pulling the strings as he is New Zealand’s national coach.
But despite all that, Garcia insisted the Heart would focus more on what they had to do to make sure their winning start to the campaign continued after they beat cross-town rivals Victory in the season opener last week.
“We sort of approach the game like we’d approach any other game and just concentrate on us and make sure we’re at our top,” Garcia said after training at La Trobe University on Thursday.
Garcia insisted the Phoenix would still need to be respected as their fill-ins will be keen to put their respective cases forward for more regular game time.
“We’ve got to give them as much respect as we can, and play like we did against Victory and try get those three points,” he said.
“I’m sure the players that come in to the team will be double eager to impress and hold their positions, so it’s going to be a very tough game and I think that’s what we’re expecting.”
One player in particular who the Heart will have to watch closely is returning star Paul Ifill who looks set to line up after overcoming knee and ankle injuries.
“He’s done well everywhere he’s gone, he’s always scored goals, he’s a very dangerous player and one we’ve got to watch out for,” Garcia said.
Garcia played his first A-League match last weekend after 14 years in England and the former Hull City man said he was surprised at how fast and intense the Melbourne Derby was.
“It was quite a fast-paced game and it was quite intense so I quite enjoyed that,” he said.
“I was expecting it to be a bit slower, but it was good that it was at that high intensity.
“That (the pace of the Melbourne Derby) was quite similar (to back in England), but (there were) probably just a few more turnovers than usual but that’s to be expected when it’s high-paced like that.”