Last month the Herald reported allegations of a division within the club involving assistant coach Jean-Paul de Marigny.
Those were strongly denied by the club, but Babbel remains on shaky ground after inconsistent results and performances that have followed. A draw at home to Western United, followed by a narrow win away to Adelaide and then a home defeat to Brisbane has done little to silence doubters of the coach, who has won just 10 of his 39 A-League games.
The Wanderers have shown considerable patience with Babbel, largely stemming from the nature of the defeats this season. Of their six losses, four have been by a margin of just one goal and none by more than two goals.
Swiss midfielder Pirmin Schwegler is set to return from suspension against the high-flying Phoenix, who are on an eight-match unbeaten run, and young fullback Tate Russell is set to replace the more experienced Tarek Elrich at right back.
German defender Patrick Ziegler deputised in midfield in their 2-1 defeat at home to Brisbane last week in place of Schwegler and is expected to remain in his unfamiliar role this week after Babbel was impressed with his performance. Midfielder Nick Sullivan could be the one to miss out.
Wellington will be without workaholic forward David Ball, who injured a hip flexor during last week’s 2-1 win over Central Coast, but first-season coach A-League Ufuk Talay is confident he has the players to cover his absence.
Talay is poised to restore goalscoring Ulises Davila to a more central role after the Mexican star was less involved last week when Ball and the promoted Gary Hooper started up front.
‘‘The good thing about these guys is they’ve got versatility. Ulises can play as a nine or as a 10. Bally’s the same. Hooper’s more of a traditional nine,’’ Talay said.
‘‘The way we’ve set up, we have a lot of movement and rotation where players move between lines so it gives us that flexibility with those players.’’