Words: ACFC Media
Saturday 23 February 2019
HONIARA, Solomon Islands - Auckland City FC coach Ramon Tribulietx believes the Navy Blues are ready for the challenge of Oceania football after a 27,000km journey that's taken them from Hong Kong to Honiara.
The nine-times OFC Champions League winners are desperate to reclaim the coveted title after surrendering it to Kiwi rivals Team Wellington last season and face a tough opener when they meet AS Magenta at Lawson Tama Stadium on Sunday.
The two teams have met four times previously with Auckland City FC winning three and there being one draw.
Tribulietx says preparations have gone well despite the challenges of globetrotting.
"We always try to stay healthy on visits to the Solomon Islands so that we can cope with the conditions and at the same time stay hydrated.
"We make sure we keep good habits. Our fitness work and schedule has been focused on the OFC Champions League to make sure the players get the necessary game time to be in a good position if they step on the pitch in Honiara.
"All of our preparations have been geared towards what is the most important tournament in our season to date.
"We've got to manage the players who are coming back from injury carefully and we've got 18 players that are all ready to go and give us a good product," he told www.aucklandcityfc.com.
In recent weeks, Tribulietx has been able to give players like Albert Riera, Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, Maro Bonsu-Maro and Yousif Ali much needed pitch time and there's no doubt Auckland City FC are favourites to go all the way given the quality and depth of their resources.
AS Magenta are a tough opponent whose team will remember another famous New Caledonian triumph over New Zealand - at the OFC Nations Cup 2012 when Les Cagous downed the All Whites 2-0 at the semi-final stage.
Tribulietx is always wary and respectful of Oceania opponents and AS Magenta are no different.
"We've played AS Magenta quite a lot in the past and this is a very talented team. They are very quick in transition up front where they have a lot of pace in their front four.
"They have a natural understanding of each other's game and they are very dangerous in a one-on-one situations. They like to get the ball into the attacking third area quickly and create opportunities for themselves.
"We need to understand exactly what we have to do when they come and press quickly and high up the pitch. We will look at ways to play through that approach. We have to make sure we don't run that much and this is where the ball becomes very important.
"But AS Magenta are a talented and tough opponent and we need to strive to be competitive," he said.
Weather conditions in Honiara have been hot, partly cloudy with temperatures sitting near the 25 degrees centigrade mark but with stifling humidity of 93 percent during the day.
Included in the OFC Champions League squad are five graduates from the club's youth pathway including David Browne, Maro Bonsu-Maro, National Youth League skipper Josh Jones, Thomas Drillien and Jackson Woods, who made his first team debut in the 1-1 away draw with Southern United in the ISPS Handa Premiership last Wednesday.
The first team squad players to miss out on OFC Champions League duty are Brian Kaltak (Vanuatu), Mario Bilen (Croatia), Patrick Lundemo (Sweden), Takuya Iwata (Japan) and Javier Lopez (Spain).
The Navy Blues unbeaten run in the OFC Champions League stands at 25 matches just two short of equalling their previous best unbeaten run of 27 matches set between 20 February 2008 when they lost 1-0 to Waitakere United and 31 March 2012 when they lost 1-0 to Amicale in Port Vila.
Live coverage of Auckland City FC's match with AS Magenta can be watched via www.oceaniafootball.com.
OFC Champions League
Sunday 24 February 2019
Auckland City FC v AS Magenta
Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara
Kick-off: 1pm ST
AC (chosen from): 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 2. Jackson WOODS, 3. Thomas DRILLIEN, 5. Angel BERLANGA (c), 7. Cam HOWIESON, 8. Albert RIERA, 10. Micah LEA'ALAFA, 11. Fabrizio TAVANO, 12. Dylan MANICKUM, 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. Josh JONES, 25. Darren WHITE, 26. Cameron BROWN (GK).
COACH: Ramon TRIBULIETX.
8 November 2009 v AS Magenta (H) won 2-1 (Matt WILLIAMS, Daniel KOPRIVCIC)
6 March 2010 v AS Magenta (A) drew 1-1 (Daniel KOPRIVCIC)
23 October 2010 v AS Magenta (H) won 3-0 (Adam McGEORGE, David MULLIGAN, Daniel KOPRIVCIC)
21 February 2010 v AS Magenta (A) won 1-0 (Manel EXPOSITO)
Sunday 4 December 2022, Wellington Olympic, Mount Smart Stadium