Words: ACFC Media
Friday 11 January 2019
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC goalkeeper Enaut Zubikarai faces a nervous wait to see if he will be deemed fit enough to face Southern United on Sunday.
The 34-year-old shot-stopper was replaced by Ruben Parker in last week's 2-0 victory over Waitakere United with the Navy Blues number two turning in a solid competitive debut at short notice.
Zubikarai has been a mainstay in the Auckland City FC line-up since joining the club in 2016 but coach Ramon Tribulietx says he has no long-term concerns over his talismanic goalkeeper.
"Enaut is an option this weekend, otherwise we believe he will be available next weekend. We're giving him every chance of making it this Sunday but if we're realistic then we're looking at another week.
"He hasn't got any structrual damage to his shoulder but it's one of those things that can flare up. He'll be back to training next week which puts him back in our selection picture," Tribulietx told www.aucklandcityfc.com.
Another injury concern for Tribulietx is All Whites defender Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi. Hudson-Wihongi pulled up in training just after the festive break with a calf strain and the Navy Blues head coach is eager not to rush the player back too soon.
MATCH DAY PROGRAMME | Auckland v Southern— Auckland City FC (@AucklandCity_FC) January 9, 2019
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"Te Atawhai picked up a small niggle unfortunately and at the moment he's not training but we're hopeful he'll be joining in with us next week.
"We're looking at the evolution of the injury but he looks pretty good so we expect him to be back to speed. Te Atawhai hasn't played since last year and he missed out on minutes so it's a matter of how long he takes to get back to the required level," he added.
Tribulietx also has Albert Riera closing in on a return to first team action following on from the impressive showing by Fabrizio Tavano last week.
With a depth in quality not available to many teams in the ISPS Handa Premiership, Tribulietx gave his opinion on whether or not New Zealand's flagship competition was getting better in standard each year and how close the gap was to Australia's A League.
"These conversations are difficult to have for a number of reasons. It is hard to say how big the gap it is between our league and the A League.
"The top ISPS Handa Premiership teams are very good sides but if I focus on our team I think we could compete at that level and we have proved it year after year competing with international sides that on their day can be better than A League sides.
"You have to put into perspective that we are not fulltime - our players work and train. I believe if the players were given that opportunity they would step up and they've proved that year in, year out, everytime they've competed.
"This team has played against very good sides in top quality competitions and we've beaten them. I have no doubt with the same conditions as the clubs in the A League that we could do very well.
"Whether there are other clubs in the ISPS Handa Premiership that could compete similarly is a difficult one to answer. My opinion is that we are very close and we've proven our abilities many times over a seven or eight year period," he said.
Sunday's clash with Southern United kicks off at 2pm NZST at Kiwitea Street.
ISPS Handa Premiership
Sunday 13 January 2019
Auckland City FC v Southern United
Kiwitea Street, Sandringham
Kick-off: 2pm NZST
AC (squad chosen from): 18. Ruben PARKER (GK), 2. Hayden McHENERY, 3. Takuya IWATA, 4. Mario BILEN, 5. Angel BERLANGA (c), 6. Brian KALTAK, 7. Cam HOWIESON, 8. Albert RIERA, 9. Javier LOPEZ, 10. Micah LEA'ALAFA, 11. Fabrizio TAVANO, 12. Dylan MANICKUM, 13. Patrick LUNDEMO, 14. Jordan VALE, 15. Dan MORGAN, 16. Yousif ALI, 17. Reid DRAKE, 19. David BROWNE, 21. Maro BONSU-MARO, 23. Alfie ROGERS, 24. Cameron BROWN (GK).
COACH: Ramon TRIBULIETX.
INJURED: 20. Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI (calf), 22. Omar GUARDIOLA (hamstring).
FITNESS PENDING: 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK)