Merrick: Phoenix buzzing for EPL test

Ernie Merrick says his star-struck Wellington Phoenix players must temper their expectations of upsetting Premier League opposition.

The Phoenix tackle West Ham United and then Newcastle United this week as part of a high-profile pre-season competition also involving Sydney FC.

The two heavyweights UK clubs are sure to provide a stern test for a team still in the early stages of their build-up to the 2014-15 campaign.

And Merrick feels his players – who finished second bottom in the A-League last season – shouldn’t get their hopes up of emerging from the fixtures unscathed.

“We have to be realistic about winning this game,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“We will certainly play to win but it’s about midfield play and having the confidence to keep possession against top level players and not being intimidated.

“So it’s a great learning curve for youngsters. I’m sure our youngsters are going to have stars in their eyes for these games against West Ham and Newcastle.

“They are teams and players we watch on television and they can see themselves being there one day. Maybe this is an opportunity to be seen.”

Despite his message of warning, Merrick is also viewing the matches against the Hammers and Magpies as a prime opportunity for his team to show what they are capable ahead of an assault on the top six next term.

“We’ve been together for four-and-a-half weeks, we’re ready to go, the boys are buzzing,” Merrick said.

“We had a team meeting, we talked about playing football and playing a standard that we want to maintain throughout the season … not changing it just for one game, where we park the bus and counter-attack. It’s about trying to play good football and that means midfield play.”

In a welcome boost for the Phoenix, who will be without midfielder Vince Lia due to injury, Roy Krishna and Alejandro Gorrin have been passed fit to play at least some part in the friendlies.

“They’ve both come good,” he said.

“Today we left Krishna to the last minute to bring him into the session making sure he was 100 percent.

“But he’s scoring goals left, right and centre and he’s got a few in the crowd that were cheering him on, so it looks like we’re coming good injury wise.”