Words: ACFC Media
Tuesday 12 February 2019
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Crowned ISPS Handa Premiership title winners for the sixth time in a row, a revamped Auckland City FC head to Dunedin to take on Southern United on Wednesday.
The first clash between the two sides was abandoned after referee Cory Mills deemed the Caledonian Ground unfit after a torrential downpour rendered the surface unplayable back in October.
Auckland City FC defeated Southern United 2-1 at Kiwitea Street the last time they met thanks to an Erik Panzer own goal and a goal from FGabrizio Tavano. Garbhan Coughlan had earlier given the Dunedinites a shock lead.
Coach Ramon Tribulietx says there will be changes to the line-up given the title is secured and the OFC Champions League kicks off in Honiara, Solomon Islands next week.
"We'll see a lot of changes coming off the back of the two games in Hong Kong and securing the premiership title.
"We'll make a rotation of the squad but the positive side is that many of the new faces have had game time in Hong Kong and at Canterbury United so they won't be coming in without some minutes in their legs.
"We'll give new players an oppportunity to have an experience with us before the OFC Champions League begins.
"Albert Riera and Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi and Omar Guardiola are players we want to see on the pitch and we need to make sure they get some sort of form going.
"There's no doubt that despite changes we'll compete and try and bring the three points home," he said.
As Auckland City FC's unbeaten run in domestic and Oceania football continues, Tribulietx acknowledged that the records his side are setting bring him only small satisfaction, focused as he is on treating each match as it's own unique challenge.
"Setting records doesn't mean much to me on a personal level but it's good to see us pushing the dynamics in the league and challenging ourselves.
"But we don't want to lose focus on what we want which is to win.
"Victory in the title race gives us qualification for the OFC Champions League in 2020 but relatively little else," he said.
Southern United have everything to play for with the Paul O'Reilly coached side 10 points adrift of the playoffs but with games in hand. A winning sequence could lift them to within a point of Canterbury.
They've also been unable to beat Auckland City FC since 2005-06. Tribulietx says Southern United will be tough opponents regardless of what previous history suggests may happen.
"We have to make sure we're switched on for the playoffs straight after the OFC Champions League which comes up very quickly.
"The OFC Champions League is coming up fast and that's our next target and to make sure we use our remaining ISPS Handa Premiership games to prepare well.
"We understand Southern will try to hurt us on the counter attack. We need to understand those situations better and need to make sure we understand how to deal with those situations.
"Our positioning has to be very important or we could concede in the same way. We'll have a few changes but you can be sure we will be there to compete," he said.
The match kicks off at 5.30pm NZST.
ISPS Handa Premiership
Wednesday 13 February 2019
Southern United v Auckland City FC
Kick-off: 5.30pm NZST
AC (squad chosen from): 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 3. Takuya IWATA, 4. Mario BILEN, 5. Angel BERLANGA (c), 6. Brian KALTACK, 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, 18. Ruben PARKER (GK), 19. David BROWNE, 20. Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 21. Maro BONSU-MARO, 22. Omar GUARDIOLA, 23. Alfie ROGERS, 24. Cameron BROWN (GK).
COACH: Ramon TRIBULIETX
Sun 24 February 2019, Honiara, Solomon Islands,3pm NZST