Words: ACFC Media
Friday 13 October 2017
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC's new look squad is eager to impress when they head to the capital to face champions Team Wellington in the ISPS Handa Premiership and Charity Cup opener on Sunday.
With six new players in Kris Bright, Liam Graham, Dan Morgan, Callum McCowatt, Owen Parker-Price and Dalton Wilkins through the door and just three out in goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley, Joao Moreira and Clayton Lewis, the Navy Blues have a fresh look about them.
That could be a key factor with the club just one title short of setting a new New Zealand record for most National League wins but having lost the last two grand finals to Sunday's opponents Team Wellington.
AUDIO - Liam Graham says winning is the priority
New signing Liam Graham says there is a hunger growing among the Navy Blues who are determined to start the new season with a win. "It was important for us to get a win on Saturday against Waitakere United and to maintain a clean sheet against one of our biggest rivals in Auckland to give us a boost for the weekend.
"Winning is our first priority and the Charity Cup is a bonus. We've got to play every game in the ISPS Handa Premiership with the same intensity.
"We haven't spoken too much about Team Wellington just yet but I'm sure Ramon will go into depth later in the week. Everyone at the club wants to make their mark in the ISPS Handa Premiership so we're right up for Sunday's game," he said.
Coach Ramon Tribulietx has a major selection headache with nearly two players available for every position in the squad capable of starting a competitive match. And Tribulietx emphasised that age will not come into his thinking when he selects his side for the trip to David Farrington Park.
"We've assembled a very good team. The young ones we've brought in are very competitive. There's always a question mark over how quickly they adapt but they're very good players. I'm very happy with their progress to date.
"Kris Bright, Liam Graham and Dan Morgan have also adapted well to what we're trying to do and we have a group of very experienced players who have been with the club for a long time who know well how we like to do things.
"We're very happy with how the squad has prepared and there is a lot of competition in the squad and thats healthy for the team," he said.
AUDIO - Ramon Tribulietx on season opener with Team Wellington
Auckland City FC has dominated Team Wellington in regular season and OFC Champions League finals over the past three seasons but the capital men have knocked over the Navy Blues three times previously including the 2014 Charity Cup final at Kiwitea Street which ended 2-2 before the then Matt Calcott-coached Wellingtonians won 5-4 on penalties.
Tribulietx says its difficult to be precise what will transpire when the teams meet given the earlier than usual start to the campaign. "Both teams will be underdone thats the reality. Team Wellington have brought in a lot of new players - Mario Illich we know well - Scott Hilliar as well but they've lost Bill Robertson.
Like us there's a lot of new faces and it will take time for them to get to know each other. "Its are very hard to gauge much from these games at the start of the ISPS Handa Premiership. Its always tough to travel to Wellington first up but it is what it is. We've looked sharp in training mentally and physically and we'll aim to compete as best we can on Sunday," he said.
Statistics summary - Auckland City FC v Team Wellington
The match will be the 39th meeting between the sides in the ISPS Handa Premiership with the Navy Blues having won 25 and losing eight. There have been four draws. There have been three previous meetings in the Charity Cup with Auckland City FC winning twice in 2015 (3-0) and 2016 (3-1).
Team Wellington won the Charity Cup in 2014. Like Sunday's fixture, the 2016 match doubled as a premiership regular season match. In the OFC Champions League the teams have clashed four times with Auckland City FC winning all four matches in 2015 (1-1 then 4-3 on penalties), 2016 (3-0) and 2017 (3-0 and 2-0).
The match kicks off at David Farrington Park at 2pm.
ISPS Handa Premiership / Charity Cup
Sunday 15 October 2017
Team Wellington v Auckland City FC
David Farrington Park, Wellington
Kick-off: 2pm NZST
AC squad (from:) Enaut Zubikarai (GK), Conor Tracey (GK), Danyon Drake (GK), Liam Graham, Angel Berlanga, Alfie Rogers, Marko Dordevic, Takuya Iwata, Albert Riera, Dalton Wilkins, Mario Bilen, Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, Cam Howieson, Harry Edge, Kris Bright, Emiliano Tade, Fabrizio Tavano, Callum McCowatt, Owen Parker-Price, Micah Lea'alafa, Ryan De Vries, Reid Drake, Dae Wook Kim, Harshae Raniga.
Coach: Ramon Tribulietx
Assistant coach: Ivan Vicelich
Technical analyst: Ryan Faithfull
Goalkeeper coach: Simone Naddi
Physiotherapist: Matt Payne
Property Steward: Arthur Egan
Logistics Manager: Keith Coton
Team Manager: David Firisua
Fitness coach: Adria Casales Barris
Team Doctor: Craig Panther
Masseuse: Tania Harris
Auckland City FC record vs. Team Wellington (all competitions)
ISPS Handa Premiership
Goals for: 96
Goals against: 56
NZF Charity Cup
2011 - Auckland City FC 3-2 Waitakere United
2012 - Waitakere United 2-1 Auckland City FC
2013 - Auckland City FC 4-1 Waitakere United
2014 - Auckland City FC 2-2 Team Wellington*
2015 - Auckland City FC 3-0 Team Wellington
2016 - Auckland City FC 3-1 Team Wellington
*Team Wellington won 4-3 on penalties
OFC Champions League
2015 - Auckland City FC 1-1 Team Wellington**
2016 - Auckland City FC 3-0 Team Wellington
2017 - Auckland City FC 3-0 Team Wellington -
- Team Wellington 0-2 Auckland City FC
**Auckland City FC won 4-3 on penalties