Navy Blues hit the ground running in Dubai

Words: ACFC Media

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Picture: Phototek

DUBAI, UAE – Auckland City FC have wasted no time in switching on for their FIFA Club World Cup play-off with UAE champions Al- Jazira, hitting the training pitch shortly after they reached their plush Dubai hotel.

The Navy Blues squad touched down in the UAE early Tuesday morning and were soon lacing up their boots for the first of a dozen precious trainings before their clash with the local heavyweights on December 6.

“It was a very long trip as expected but I think the team is looking good,” said Navy Blues coach Ramon Tribulietx, “its always good to get the first training session done and it allows the players to get a kick of the ball and help get rid of the jet lag. We're happy to be here in Dubai.”

Only Solomon Islands international Micah Lea'alafa has yet to arrive with red tape holding up his visa application for the UAE. Once approved, Lea'alafa will join up with the squad after its second friendly match scheduled for Friday 1 December with as yet to be confirmed opponents.

“We expected Micah to be here with us but something unexpected has happened with his visa situation in transit to Dubai from Singapore. We are working very hard in the background to make sure Micah is with us at some stage before Friday or Saturday for at least three or four nights (before the match with Al Jazira)," he said.

Auckland City FC face UAE Arabian Gulf League Division One outfit Al-Ittihad Kalba SC in their first friendly hit out on Wednesday 29 November.

The match kicks off at 4.30pm local time (Thursday 30 November 1.30am NZST) at the Dubai Sports City complex.

Influential midfielder Mario Bilen – who has missed Auckland City FC’s five match domestic winning streak – took part in light activities in a positive start to his race to be fit for tournament.

Temperatures topped 25 degrees centigrade in a short but sharp late afternoon session, not that fazed Tribulietx or the players.

“Tomorrow is only our first full day here in Dubai and the game will give us a first taste of what the Arabic teams bring to the party in terms of their playing style – it will be a difficult encounter for us," Tribulietx added.

One milestone today's friendly with Al-Ittihad marks is veteran midfielder Albert Riera's 100th game for Auckland City FC. The Barcelona-born player turns 34 at the end of the month but is excited ahead of whats to come.

"Its been great so far I've never been to Dubai before. We needed a training session under our belt because we had very heavy legs after the trip. It was important to get some movement in the legs.

"I wasn't aware of the 100 game milestone. time goes by very fast and I couldn't imagine playing 100 games. Playing 99 games is unbelievable and hopefully if I stay fit I can play a few more," Riera said.

Auckland City FC have a light training session scheduled for 10.30am local time (7.30pm NZST) today before facing Al-Ittihad at 4.30pm local time (Thursday 30 November 1.30am NZST).

Live updates of the match can be followed at Auckland City FC's official club Twitter account (@AucklandCity_FC)


AUDIO - Albert Riera


AUDIO - Ramon Tribulietx


Friendly Match
Wednesday 29 November 2017 (Thursday 30 November 2017 NZST)
Al-Ittihad Kalba SC v Auckland City FC
Dubai Sports City Complex, UAE
Kick-off: 4.30pm (1.30am NZST)

Friendly Match
Friday 1 December 2017 (Saturday 2 December 2017 NZST)
TBC v Auckland City FC
Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium, UAE
Kick-off: 6.45pm (3.45am NZST)

FIFA Club World Cup Playoff
Wednesday 6 December 2017 (Thursday 7 December 2017 NZST)
Al Jazira v Auckland City FC
Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain
Kick-off: 9.00pm local (6.00am NZST)

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