Words: ACFC Media
Friday 20 October 2017
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Mario Bilen ruled out for Auckland City FC as they take aim at Southern United in the ISPS Handa Premiership.
Former Croatia age-group international Bilen, 33, injured his medial ligament in last week's 3-1 defeat to Team Wellington and the Navy Blues coaching staff face a difficult decision with competition for places already intense.
Assistant coach Ivan Vicelich admits Bilen's injury is a major setback but allows others to step forward in his absence.
"Mario is a big loss for us but its always about our squad. We've always carried a very good squad and players are able to step in and play their role in the team. We do rotate players a lot and every player is in contention to start.
"We've got a couple of niggles that may rule some players out so there are chances for others to come in perform and do well," he said.
Also carrying knocks are Fabrizio Tavano and Marko Dordevic although there are plentiful options available to provide cover.
That could be a crucial factor as the Navy Blues look to bounce back from last week's defeat in the capital.
Vicelich says morale remains high despite that result.
AUDIO - Ivan Vicelich talks Southern United
"The mood is very good but its been a tough week. We've trained well despite the disappointing loss weekend. We've had a good look at what went wrong and what we have to do to correct it which the boys have done.
"We're building up towards this weekend which is going to be a very tough game but hopefully we can bring back three points to Auckland," Vicelich said.
The form book is very much in favour of the Navy Blues if history is anything to go by with Southern United having only defeated the Aucklanders twice since 2004-05.
But Vicelich will be wary of a Southern United team that pushed Auckland City FC all the way in last season's corresponding fixture before a late goal saved Navy Blues blushes in a 1-0 win.
Offering Southern United an incentive will be Auckland City FC's less than remarkable defensive record which has taken a bit of a shake in pre-season.
The former All Whites great puts that into context.
"Pre-season went well for us and we played some very good football last week. We created a lot of opportunities but didn't take them and Team Wellington capitalised on that and scored some good goals.
"We need to focus better for every minute we're on the pitch and to make sure we're sharp because Southern will be a tough opponent," he said.
The match kicks off at 2pm at Sunnyvale Park in Dunedin on Sunday 22 Octobers.
ISPS Handa Premiership
Sunday 22 October 2017
Southern United v Auckland City FC
Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off: 2pm NZST
AC (from): Enaut Zubikarai (GK), Liam Graham, Takuya Iwata, Angel Berlanga, Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, Cam Howieson, Albert Riera, Darren White, Ryan de Vries, Fabrizio Tavano, Kris Bright, Alfie Rogers, Dan Morgan, Daewook Kim, Reid Drake, Danyon Drake (GK), Emiliano Tade
Coach: Ramon Tribulietx
SU (from): Liam Little (GK), Tom Stevens, Stephen Last, Conor O’Keeffe, Kristian Gibson, Tom Connor, Alex Cox, Niklas Ordenewitz, Roland Balla, Danny Ledwith, Michael Hogan, Jared Grove, Hamish Cotter, Morgan Day, Jack Pirie, Andrew Ridden, Aidan Barbour-Ryan, Danny Furlong, Ben Wade, Omar Guardiola, Garbhan Goughlan, Cody Brook
Coach: Paul O’Reilly
Sunday 4 December 2022, Wellington Olympic, Mount Smart Stadium