Balancing act for Navy Blues in final

Words: ACFC Media

Monday 30 January 2017

Picture: Phototek

HONG KONG – Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx will balance competitive and development considerations as they attempt to win the Nike Lunar New Year Cup on Tuesday night against a Kitchee SC invitational side in Hong Kong. 

Victory over Korean champions FC Seoul in their opening match has already demonstrated the Navy Blues’ commitment to proving themselves against some of the best clubs in the region and while that competitive drive remains, Tribulietx may look to shuffle his deck a little when it comes to selection decisions.

Two changes have been enforced upon the Navy Blues already with captain Angel Berlanga sidelined following a broken nose sustained in Saturday’s 1-0 win while work commitments mean fullback Darren White has already returned to Auckland.

“We’ve got a couple of things to consider,” said Tribulietx.

“We’ve got a lot of young boys and we really want to provide them with opportunities to experience football at this level because they will be very important for the club in the next few years and we need to help them mature as players.

“So there might be a couple of changes in that regard as well – it’s our responsibility as a club.”

“But that is balanced with the reality. We’re going to try to win it. It’s a calibre of tournament we don’t normally get to play outside the Club World Cup.

“It’s a step below that of course, but it’s another chance to prove ourselves.”

For their part, Kitchee SC’s line-up will once again have a Hong Kong All Stars look to it having drafted in five of the marquee players from other clubs in their national league.  This gave them enough of a boost to get past Thailand champions Muangthong United in their opening match but it does have a downside according to Tribulietx.

“They’ve got an increase in terms of quality but tactically they are maybe not as cohesive because they are playing five players who don’t normally play with them.

“They want to press very high and they were pushed back a lot by the Thai team on Saturday, partly because of the quality of the Thai champions but also perhaps because of that lack of cohesiveness on the night.”

An eleventh hour replacement for this year’s edition of the annual tournament coinciding with Chinese New Year celebrations, Auckland City’s effort already in stunning FC Seoul could already be reaping rewards for the club and

“There is already talk from some of the clubs here about other opportunities arising for us.  These teams consider us good opposition.

“It’s a great opportunity for us especially after that win. We have opened the door again in that respect. And of course we are flying the flag for the Stirling Sports Premiership so it gives the whole league credibility. Today’s it us, tomorrow it may be another club from the league.”

“We’re very happy with that because we owe a lot to New Zealand Football and the clubs for readjusting the schedule to give us the opportunity to come all the way to Hong Kong.”

The final of the Nike New Year Cup kicks off at 5.30pm local time (10.30pm NZDT). FC Seoul and Muangthong United play off for third at 3pm.

The match will be streamed via and fans wishing to watch are recommended to visit on match day for up-to-date links to the best way to watch.


Match Details
Nike Lunar New Year Cup Final
Tuesday 31 January, 2017
Kitchee SC v Auckland City FC
Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong
Kick-off: 5.30pm local (10.30pm NZDT)

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