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Players return for final game of year

Words: ACFC Media

Friday 14 December 2018

Picture: Phototek

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - The biggest problem Ramon Tribulietx faces ahead of his side's clash with Tasman United could be who he leaves out of his starting line-up after a 100 percent winning start to the new season.

The Navy Blues haven't lost a match in competitive football since Team Wellington toppled them 3-1 in last season's campaign opener in Wellington back in October 2017.

Apart from Tasman United's 3-0 turnover result due to an administrative error on Auckland City FC's part, the Navy Blues haven't lost in 25 matches.

Coach Ramon Tribulietx knows that such a run brings pressure but it also indicates strongly the quality at his disposal as he explained why the Navy Blues have performed so well.

"The last game we lost was the first game of last season. It comes down to how we prepare and the style of play we implement. When you control most games and play well you gain more possibilities to achieve victories.

"It's a combination of the style and the quality of our players. We take every match as a one off and try to look for the best opportunity to give us the best outcome.

"Consistency is important. I don't like talking about records too much but it is an indicator of how hard we work as a collective," he told

Boosting his stocks is the return of international pair Micah Lea'alafa and David Browne while All Whites defender Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi and Mario Bilen are also back.

Browne returns, ironically enough, against the team that saw him receive a nasty head injury in a collision with Tasman United goalkeeper Corye Wilson.

Picking a team becomes a tougher than usual exercise for Tribulietx.

"It's going to be difficult to leave people out but its a good problem to have as a coach. The worst thing is to not have players available especially of the quality we have.

"It makes my life harder but I'm happy to have this type of problem and we now have more possibilities in selection.

"Fabrizio Tavano is still suspended but he's back for January. Dylan Manickum is out after the red card he got in Hamilton. The squad we'll take to Tasman United is a very good one," he said.

Tribulietx was a keen observer of last week's goalless draw between Eastern Suburbs and Tasman United and says Sunday's opponents will be a complex opponent to crack.

"We can learn a lot of lessons from the Eastern Suburbs and Tasman United game. Tasman were very similar in approach at Kiwitea Street but perhaps their block wasn't set as deep as it was last week.

"A lot of teams try to propose somethng different for us but we're ready for those different scenarios.

"Hamilton Wanderers employed a high pressing strategy when we met at Porritt Stadium but probably, most likely, the scenario in Nelson will be like what we saw at Riverhills Park from Tasman United.

"How we position ourselves will be crucial and stretching their defensive block is important.

"We've played these sort of games many many times before and if don't create chances you can get into a spiral of frustration.

"They're at home, playing the league leaders and they've nothing to lose which makes them a difficult opponent," he said.

The match takes place at Trafalgar Park, Nelson, at 2pm NZST.

On Saturday, the Junior Navy Blues take on Tasman United in the National Youth League where a win by a large margin would put them in a strong position to retain the league title they won last season.

For more information about the National Youth League title run-in including match venue, kick-off times, click here


Match Details
ISPS Handa Premiership
Sunday 16 December 2018
Tasman United v Auckland City FC
Trafalgar Park, Nelson
Kick-off: 2pm 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, 10. Micah LEA'ALAFA, 13. Alfie ROGERS, 14. Jordan VALE, 15. Dan MORGAN, 16. Yousif ALI, 17. Reid DRAKE, 18. Ruben PARKER (GK), 19. David BROWNE, 20. Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 21. Maro BONSU-MARO.



SUSPENDED: 11. Fabrizio TAVANO, 12. Dylan MANICKUM.

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