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Navy Blues focus on Dragons

Words: ACFC Media

Friday 1 February 2019

Picture: Phototek

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC first of nine matches in the space of a month begins when they meet Canterbury United in Christchurch on Saturday.

With the Navy Blues top of the ISPS Handa Premiership with an incredible 36 points out of 36, you'd be forgiven for thinking they were in danger of taking their position for granted, especially with glamorous opponents laying in wait.

The Navy Blues then head for Hong Kong and the Tonghai Financial Chinese New Year Cup on Sunday.

Making that tournament even more attractive is news Shandong Luneng are on the verge of completing the signing of Belgium and Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini.

Fellaini, 31, joins Italian international striker Graziano Pelle in a formidable Shandong Luneng double act while J.League outfit Sagan Tosu feature Fernando Torres and ex-Barcelona winger Joan Lopez.

With the Navy Blues top of the ISPS Handa Premiership with an incredible 36 points out of 36, you'd be forgiven for thinking they were in danger of taking their position for granted, especially with glamorous opponents laying in wait.

Coach Ramon Tribulietx acknowledged the attraction of competing internationally but said there was a grounded sense of realism within the squad and staff that keeps the groups' feet on terra firma.

"Everyone understands Canterbury are always a very tough opponent even if we have a small lolly coming up beyond that.

"We have to respect Canterbury and it's a key part of our campaign and we need to make sure we do well. We know what they bring to the party and they have two in-form players in Stephen Hoyle and Maksim Kowal who are both scoring goals.

"Tom Schwarz attack at the far post very aggressively, they play on the counter attack and we know we have to be up for this challenge," he told www.aucklandcityfc.com.

Tribulietx added: "We always take each game one at a time, focus on how we play and we analyse what we need to do to make sure the next game goes our way.

"By approaching the job in a methodical way, you catch the attention of the players and it draws them into your terrain of focus rather than allowing them to get too far in front of themselves."

While the focus has been on Canterbury United, several players have made pleasing progress on the injury front with Albert Riera, Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi and Reid Drake on the mend.

"Albert Riera has been doing different treatment and his knee has settled and he's had a week of ball training and fitness.

"He's close to a comeback and we'll see how he goes. We're hopeful he'll get some game time in Hong Kong.

"It would be good to give Te Atawhai playing time in Hong Kong given the OFC Champions League is coming up. We need to get minutes into the legs of both players as Te Atawhai and Albert are very important to us.

"Reid Drake is a lot better than we thought. He's doing a little bit of jogging and hopefully he's not too far away from being available," he said.

In player news, Darren White has rejoined the club on a short-term basis following the departure of Hayden McHenery to Canterbury United. White, 30, was a key member of the Navy Blues side that won the bronze medal at the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2014.

Saturday's match with Canterbury United kicks off at 2pm NZST.

Ends

Match Details
ISPS Handa Premiership
Saturday 2 February 2019
Canterbury United v Auckland City FC
English Park, Christchurch
Kick-off: 2pm NZST
#CUvAC

AC (squad from): 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 2. Darren WHITE, 3. Takuya IWATA, 4. Mario BILEN, 5. Angel BERLANGA (c), 6. Brian KALTACK, 7. Cam HOWIESON, 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, 18. Ruben PARKER (GK), 19. David BROWNE, 21. Maro BONSU-MARO, 23. Alfie ROGERS, 24. Cam BROWN (GK).

COACH: Ramon TRIBULIETX.

INJURED: 8. Albert RIERA (knee), 17. Reid DRAKE (ankle), 20. Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI (calf), 22. Omar GUARDIOLA (hamstring).

AUCKLAND CITY FC FIXTURES

ISPS Handa Premiership

2 February 2019
v Canterbury United (A), kick-off 2pm NZST

Tonghai Financial Chinese New Year Cup

5 February 2019
v Shandong Luneng Taishan (N), kick-off TBA

7 February 2019
v TBC, kick-off TBA

ISPS Handa Premiership

10 February 2019
v Wellington Phoenix (H), kick-off 2pm NZST

13 February 2019
v Southern United (A), kick-off: 5.30pm NZST

17 February 2019
v Hamilton Wanderers (H), kick-off 4.35pm NZST

OFC Champions League

24 February 2019
v AS Magenta (N), kick-off TBC

27 February 2019
v OFC Champions League Preliminary Runner-Up

2 March 2019
v Solomon Warriors (A), kick-off TBC

ISPS Handa Premiership

10 March 2019
v Team Wellington (A), kick-off 2pm NZST

17 March 2019
v Waitakere United (H), kick-off 4.35pm NZST

23-24 March 2019
ISPS Handa Premiership Semi-Finals

31 March 2019
ISPS Handa Premiership Final

OFC Champions League*

6-7 April 2019
OFC Champions League 1/4 Final (home advantage to group winners)

27-28 April 2019
OFC Champions League Semi-Finals (home advantage random draw)

11-12 May 2019
OFC Champions League Final (home advantage random draw)

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