WELLINGTON captain Andrew Durante cannot wait to lock horns with former team-mate Marco Rojas when Phoenix takes on New Zealand's Under-20 side in Auckland on Sunday.
It will be the first time Rojas has faced the Wellington team since taking up a two-year contract with Melbourne Victory.
Rojas' skill on the ball and lightening pace made him a real fan favourite during his time in the New Zealand capital and he showed his attacking prowess in the senior New Zealand side in matches against China and Australia earlier this year before being selected for the national Under-20 squad for their World Cup in Colombia later this month.
"It will be nice to see Marco again. But it's going to be up to the left and right full-backs to deal with him so I don't have to," Durante joked.
"Everyone knows he's a great talent. Even when he's been playing in All Whites games he's been playing really well so he's definitely not a one-year wonder.
"He's done well and I'm looking forward to playing against him on Sunday."
The hit-out will be Phoenix's third pre-season fixture after two outings against Wellington club teams in the past couple of weeks.
It will provide Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert, who is also the New Zealand national coach, with the perfect opportunity to cast his eye over potential recruits as he still needs to sign the required three under-21 players for next season.
"It's definitely a trial for those young players to show the national coach and the Phoenix coach what they can do," Durante said.
"I'm sure they will be fired up and there will be some tackles going in. They've got a lot to impress Ricki about."
Durante expects Sunday's opponents to be a step-up in class from the previous two games.
"It's going to be a good test. Obviously they are going to be up for it to try and knock over a professional team and building into their World Cup," he said.
"We are going to see where we're at as well. With all due respect to the opposition we've already played I think this will be a better standard on Sunday. It will be a good test to see where we're at."
There could be a few tired Phoenix bodies though after another demanding week under new strength and conditioning coach Lee Taylor.
On Friday the players' day started early with a pool session before they hit the training pitch and a series of energy-sapping drills that mixed football skills with leg strengthening work, aerobic fitness, boxing and sit-ups with medicine balls.
"It's probably the hardest pre-season we've had since I've been at the club," said Durante. "And we've still got four months to go.
"LT (Taylor) has come in and he's been brilliant. He's been into the mental side of things. We were up this morning at 6:30, into the pool doing some laps and strength stuff in the pull. Then it was straight back to training and we got a good touch-up there. It wasn't an easy session by any means.
"But the boys are loving it. We're feeling fit already and we seem to be well ahead of where we've been any other season.
"LT is all about togetherness and helping each other out when things get tough. I think you'll see a mentally strong team this year. Hopefully you won't be seeing goals conceded late on and we'll be really hard to beat now."