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Navy Blues face moment of truth

Words: ACFC Media

Friday 3 March 2017

Picture: Phototek

AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Auckland City FC coach Ramon Tribulietx says lessons have been learned by the Navy Blues as they prepare for Sunday’s crucial Stirling Sports Premiership showdown with Eastern Suburbs AFC.

The Navy Blues lost three players to red cards in last week’s 4-1 drubbing by arch-rivals Waitakere United, the club’s biggest ever defeat to their West Auckland rivals.

Albert Riera, Darren White and Fabrizio Tavano each finished the match early following unsavoury scenes at the Trusts Arena.

Auckland City FC’s disciplinary record over the past two seasons has been exceptional and Tribulietx admitted it was a rarity for his team or players to be involved in a match where so little went right in that regard.

“We had a good chat regarding what happened on Sunday and obviously that is a situation we can’t afford to get through again because if we do we give ourselves no chance of winning the game.

“We have to make sure we focus our energy on our football and accept the things that we can’t control as they are part of the game. I believe we have learned the lesson,” he said.

With Riera, White and Tavano all suspended, Tribulietx has a headache as he tries to reshuffle his team in what shapes as the club’s biggest game of the domestic season.

The versatile Mario Bilen could find himself pushed into his more familiar central midfield role in place of Riera while Alfie Rogers – who started as left back on Sunday – could play on the right of a back four as could Takuya Iwata, replacing White.

Replacing Tavano in midfield could be trickier with youngster Reid Drake one option while Cam Howieson – who has looked a quality operator since starting his Navy Blues career – could line up alongside Clayton Lewis who came off the bench last week.

One of the features of the Navy Blues under Tribulietx has been the versatility and adaptation of various players into different positions but the 44-year-old is keeping his cards close to his chest on what he may choose to do.

“I haven’t made any firm decisions with respect to our starting 11. I do have a clear idea of what we want to do and we certainly have the personnel to keep the standards of the team as high as always.

“The key strength of the football we play is always the key to what we do regardless of the personnel we use.

“This team is used to playing in high pressure games. There will be moments of tension on Sunday because it is another derby game.

“It is a big game for both teams, we need to make sure we stay cool and concentrate on the ideas and concepts that define our football,” he said.

A win for Auckland City FC would hand the Navy Blues their eighth minor premiership title and with it qualification for the OFC Champions League next season.

It would also be the club’s fourth consecutive minor premiership title breaking the record of three consecutive titles won by Waitakere United between 2006 and 2009.

A draw would leave the Navy Blues in jeopardy of finishing as low as third and allow Team Wellington to become the first team outside of Auckland City FC or Waitakere United to ever lift the minor premiership but only if they win both their final regular season games.

Waitakere United can heap further pressure on the Navy Blues if they can drub the Wellington Phoenix U-20s in their last regular season game.

In that scenario, both Auckland City FC and Waitakere United would finish the season level on points  with their head-to-head record used to separate them – a record Waitakere United would win comfortably after 1-0 and 4-1 wins over the Navy Blues.

If Auckland City FC lose they’ll finish the campaign on 33 points, level with Eastern Suburbs AFC while Waitakere United would leapfrog them into second place but have to wait as Team Wellington negotiate their way past Tasman United on March 12 and Canterbury United on March 19.

Sunday’s match kicks off at 3pm at Kiwitea Street.


Match Details
Sunday 5 March 2017
Auckland City FC v Eastern Suburbs AFC
Kiwitea Street, Sandringham
Kick-off: 3pm NZST

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