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Apr, 4, 2012

Phoenix happy to be A-League underdogs

They enter as underdogs but Wellington Phoenix midfielder Leo Bertos says he and his teammates are confident of causing an upset in Saturday's A-League minor semi-final clash with the Glory in Perth.

The Glory have won nine of their 14 home games this season and are warm favourites to progress to next week's preliminary final, to face either Central Coast or Brisbane.

But Bertos, who notched 35 games for the Glory between 2006-08, said the Phoenix squad were steeling themselves for a deep run into the finals.

"We've had some great results against Central Coast, Brisbane and Perth this season, so why can't we go all the way?" Bertos said on Wednesday.

"I'm sure Perth are feeling the same, too.

"That's the attitude you have to have, especially in a finals series.

"We as a group don't want our season to end just yet. We want to go all the way. There's a quiet confidence within the group this week.

"It's not a bad tag to have, I guess, not being the favourite."

Instead of making the 5300km trek to Perth in one go, Wellington travelled to Sydney on Tuesday, and will leave for Perth on Thursday afternoon.

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert said his squad were left physically exhausted following last week's 3-2 win over Sydney FC, and would have suffered if they took a direct trip to Perth.

"I can't guarantee success but I believe we've given it our best shot," Herbert said.

"We've been to Perth a number of times and done a number of different things and it hasn't always worked."

Glory's squad has changed dramatically since Bertos departed in 2008.

But the 30-year-old is all too aware of the talents of Shane Smeltz, who plays with Bertos in New Zealand's national set-up.

Smeltz has scored seven goals in his past two games, and Bertos said the striker would be closely watched by Wellington's defence.

"He's in unbelievable form," Bertos said.

"I know playing with and against Smeltzy, he's the type of guy that if you leave him alone for one second, he'll punish you.

"He's done that to us before.

"We can't let him have a sniff. More often than not, it goes into the back of the net."

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