Words: ACFC Media
Friday 23 November 2018
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Ramon Tribulietx faces a selection dilemma as the calendar year draws to a close and players return from injury or suspension.
Tribulietx's team has lit up the ISPS Handa Premiership with five straight wins and when they face perrennial strugglers Wellington Phoenix at David Farrington Park on Sunday, they'll be red hot favourites to make it six.
But the issue facing the Catalan-born Navy Blues supremo is how he changes a winning team to accommodate Albert Riera, Fabrizio Tavano, David Browne or Micah Lea'alafa.
Riera is closing in on a return to first team action after six weeks out recovering from minor knee surgery, Tavano was suspended for his part in an altercation while playing for Three Kings United in the Lotto NRFL Premier Division while Browne and Lea'alafa have been missing in recent weeks with concussion and a personal matter respectively.
Each player has in the past commanded an immediate starting slot in the Navy Blues set-up but could face a fight for a first team starting position.
Several players used to life on the fringes of the Auckland City FC squad have stepped up this season including midfielder Reid Drake, defender Alfie Rogers and new signing Dylan Manickum, who popped up with winning goals against both Hawke's Bay United and Eastern Suburbs.
Tribulietx said it was a major positive to enjoy a winning run with the squad still evolving.
"We're very happy with how everyone is gelling and their understanding is growing. Last weekend was a tough game and at times we played good football with a number of new players on the pitch.
"They've come from different football environments but we had good possession and its important we play with patience and our ideas and that happened.
"This Sunday we're up against a talented side. They have good individual players and they have a bigger core of players they use in that team and they haven't used many first team players.
"You can see that in a player like Willem Ebbinge who is a talented player and Liberato Cacace who has come through their ranks. They're talented and on their day they can give you a hard time. They move the ball very efficiently.
"We're missing Dylan Manickum who is away with futsal so it gives us another possibility to blood a new player and we need to make sure we get to the last third of the campaign all of our players have played enough so the team is at its best when it matters.
"We understand Albert and Fabrizio bring to this team. They've been very important to this club over many years. In some respects their absence has been good because it gives others an opportunity to show what they do.
"When they come back in we'll have to manage their game time to lift this players up because we're going to need them when it matters. The same situation applies to David Browne prior to his injury. He's been slowly getting back into training which is great for him and for us.
"We'll see how we manage their return. We'll make sure everyone has enough game time before the last third of the campaign. We're in a good moment but we're still growing and we have a tricky game on Sunday," he said.
Wellington Phoenix finished ninth last season but with a respectable points tally of 15, four adrift of Waitakere United and Hawke's Bay United, but they were beaten comfortably by the Navy Blues 2-0 and 4-0.
Nicknamed the 'Wee Nix', the Wellington Phoenix have again struggled losing all five of their matches and conceding a hefty 17 goals. Last week they lost 3-2 to Tasman United in Nelson after leading 1-0 for a fair chunk of the match.
Ben Waine, Calvin Harris and bbinge have been standouts for the 'Wee Nix' and have beaten Auckland City FC twice in the past in recent seasons including a 3-1 reverse at Kiwitea Street in January 2015 and a 1-0 win two years ago courtesy of a late Logan Rogerson goal.
The match kicks off at David Farrington Park in Wellington on Sunday 25 November 2018 at 3pm NZST.
In National Youth League action, the Junior Navy Blues take on the Wellington Phoenix the day before at Fraser Park at 2pm NZST.
Camilo Speranza's side lead the competition by just one point following two consecutive draws with Eastern Suburbs and Canterbury United.
Team Wellington, the nearest challengers, take on Eastern Suburbs at Michaels Avenue while Canterbury United entertain Hamilton Wanderers where a win will keep them in touch with the chasing pack.
ISPS Handa Premiership
Sunday 25 November 2018
Wellington Phoenix v Auckland City FC
David Farrington Park, Wellington
Kick-off: 3pm NZST
AC (squad chosen from): 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 2. Hayden McHENERY, 3. Takuya IWATA, 4. Mario BILEN, 5. Angel BERLANGA (c), 6. Brian KALTAK, 7. Cam HOWIESON, 9. Javier LOPEZ, 13. Alfie ROGERS, 14. Jordan VALE, 15. Dan MORGAN, 16. Yousif ALI, 17. Reid DRAKE, 18. Ruben PARKER (GK), 20. Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 21. Maro BONSU-MARO, 24. Cameron BROWN (GK).
COACH: Ramon TRIBULIETX
INJURED: Albert RIERA (Knee - one week), David BROWNE (concussion).
SUSPENSION: Fabrizio TAVANO.
UNAVAILABLE: Micah LEA'ALAFA, Dylan MANICKUM (Futsal).
Sunday 4 December 2022, Wellington Olympic, Mount Smart Stadium