Words: ACFC Media
Wednesday 10 August 2022
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Albert Riera says his players have a point to prove when they take on Cook Islands side Nikao Sokattak in their final game of the group stage of the OFC Champions League on Thursday.
Eliminated Nikao Sokattack have lost both their group games with Rewa (3-1) and Hienghene Sport (1-0) but could provide a tough test as Riera gives an opportunity to his squad to prove a point to him before the semi-finals on Sunday.
Nikao's best ever performance at an OFC Champions League resulted in a single point after they drew 0-0 with Nokia Eagles on February 10, 2006.
Riera sees the game as one for his squad players to make a case for inclusion in the knock out stages.
"We're going to use this game to rotate players because the first two games we've had have been quite intense, especially the last one against Rewa.
"One of the reasons is we're not used to playing on astroturf and it takes a little bit more time for the players to recover.
"They had a day off training yesterday to freshen up mentally and physically.
"Players with knocks were able to see the physio and for the ones that are injured are able to use the gym and the resources at our disposal to make the most of every day so to be ready as soon as possible.
"Players like Alfie Rogers and others are progressing well, Matt Payne is doing an excellent job, so its just a matter of time, its something we double check on a daily basis," he told www.aucklandcityfc.com.
The last time Auckland City FC played a Cook Islands side in the OFC Champions League it resulted in a 15-0 win for the Navy Blues over Tupapa Maraerenga in a group game in Honiara, Solomon Islands, in punishing heat and humidity.
Tomorrow's game is likely to be in cloudy overcast and wet conditions and Riera dismisses the idea the past could dictate aspects of tomorrow's game.
"We know Nikao haven't been able to win a game yet, but we don't really look into the results we've had with teams from the Cook Islands on previous occasions as an indication of anything.
"The best possible preparation for the semi-final for us is to take every game at 100 percent.
"That does mean we will make player rotations, that some players get more minutes because its very hard to replace match fitness with training sessions.
"It's a great opportunity for players who haven't had match time and they know well I don't like players taking a day off training or not giving everything.
"We will go out there trying to give the best performance we can and we have that responsibility every time we pull on an Auckland City FC jersey.
"The players have a point to prove and that is to make my job of selecting the team for the semi-final very difficult," he said.
In the group's other match, Rewa FC take on Hienghene Sport in a winner takes all showdown.
A draw will give Rewa FC a semi-final against Tahiti's AS Venus while Hienghene Sport must defeat the Fijians to leapfrog Marika Rodu's team and extend their stay in Auckland by at least one more match.
In Group A, Central Coast defeated Lae City 3-2 to set up a semi-final with Auckland City FC on Sunday 14 August at Ngahue.
Tomorrow's game kicks off at 3.00pm NZDT and will be live streamed by OFC.
OFC Champions League
Nikao Sokattack v Auckland City FC
Thursday 11 August 2022
Ngahue Reserve, Stonefields, Auckland
Kick-off: 03.00pm NZDT
AC: 1. Conor TRACEY (GK), 2. Mario ILICH, 3. Adam MITCHELL, 4. Christian GRAY, 5. Angel BERLANGA, 6. Matt ELLIS, 7. Cam HOWIESON, 8. Gerard GARRIGA, 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 11. Ryan DE VRIES, 12. Sam BROTHERTON, 14. Jordan VALE, 15. Aidan CAREY, 16. Joe LEE, 17. Reid DRAKE, 18. Finn DOCKERTY (GK), 19. Liam GILLION, 20. Emiliano TADE, 21. Ilham HAMEEDI, 22. Will ENG, 23. Alfie ROGERS, 24. Cam BROWN (GK).
COACH: Albert RIERA
ASSISTANT COACH: Ivan VICELICH
GOALKEEPER COACH: Enaut ZUBIKARAI
MANAGER: Keith COTON
ANALYST: Adria CASALS
TRAINER: Alejo LEGUIZAMON
TECHNICAL: Jarrod WALLACE
PHYSIO: Matt PAYNE
HEAD COACH - Alex NAPA
The 46-year-old Alex Napa has been a stalwart of Cook ISlands football who last played football for Matavera in 1996 as a defender. He was capped at full international level by the Cook Islands and managed the national team in 1997 and 1998. He has coached Nikao Sokattak on two previous occasions in 2007 and 2011.
PLAYER TO WATCH - Grover HARMON
Grover Zinedine Harmon, to call him by his full name, is a key member of Nikao Sokattak's squad and turns out in midfield and has won 10 full international caps for the Cook Islands.
Cook Islands Round Cup winners 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2021
Cook Islands Cup winners 1983, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2020, 2021
OFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE RECORD v COOK ISLAND CLUBS
27.02.19 v Tupapa Maraerenga (N) won 15-0 (Dan MOrgan, Fabrizio Tavano 3, Omar Guardiola 3, Maro Bonsu-Maro 4, David Browne 2, Micah Lea'alafa 2)
CURRENT FORM - COOK ISLANDS ROUND CUP
21.08.21 v Avatiu (H) won 2-0
28.08.21 v Puaikura (A) won 2-0
03.09.21 v Titikaveka (A) won 3-1
11.09.21 v Matavera-Ngatangiia (H) won 3-0
18.09.21 v Tupapa Maraerenga (H) won 2-1
25.09.21 v Avatiu (A) lost 1-2
04.10.21 v Puaikura (A) won 4-0
09.10.21 v Titikaveka (H) drew 1-1
16.10.21 v Matavera Ngatangiia (A) won 4-0
23.10.21 v Tupapa Maraerenga (A) lost 0-1
29.10.21 v Avantiu (A) won 6-0
06.11.21 v Puaikura (H) won 2-0
13.11.21 v Titikaveka (H) won 3-0
19.11.21 v Matavera-Ngatangiia (H) won 4-0
26.11.21 v Tupapa Maraerenga (A) won 1-0
CURRENT FORM - OFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
05.08.22 v Rewa (N) lost 1-3 (Mark LEITO)
08.08.22 v Hienghene Sport (N) lost 0-1
Tu 12 Dec 2023, Al Ittihad, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, KO: 9.00pm local