Words: ACFC Media
Friday 15 March 2019
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC can beat their own best ever ISPS Handa Premiership points tally and claim a new competition record if they down Waitakere United at Kiwitea Street on Sunday.
The Navy Blues wrapped up the ISPS Handa Premiership League title weeks ago and can finish the competition undefeated for the third time in their history if they get at least a draw.
Auckland City FC were the first team to complete a regular season campaign undefeated when they won 11 and drew three of their 14 matches in the 2011-12 season but their season crumbled after Team Wellington knocked them out at the semi-final stage 4-2 on aggregate.
In 2015-16, the Navy Blues repeated the achievement with 12 wins and two draws only to go down to Team Wellington in the final 4-2 after extra time.
Waitakere United hold the competition record for most points with a total of 51 accumulated from 21 matches during their League title victory in 2007-08 season, a tally that saw them finish one point above the Navy Blues.
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Ramon Tribulietx's team sit on 49 points currently and can reach 52 points with a win to claim the record, a feat that would be all the more impressive given they will have played three games less than Waitakere United did 11 years ago.
The Super City derby itself has lost some of its lustre in recent seasons as Waitakere United's fortunes have nosedived.
The red and whites have spluttered into life in recent seasons under coach Chris Milicich, back for a second spell with the club, but been unable to sustain the momentum since a semi-final appearance two seasons ago.
Sunday's clash is the 59th between the two clubs with Auckland City FC with the Navy Blues notching 31 wins, 12 draws and 15 defeats since the clubs first met in the 2004-05 season.
The last time the two teams met striker Javier Lopez helped himself to a brace as the Navy Blues cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win at Trusts Arena on a hot summer's day in early January.
Waitakere United's run of form has been well below par with just two wins and a draw from their last 13 matches dating back to their last win - a 3-0 victory over Tasman United on November 11 last year.
Coach Ramon Tribulietx said a Super City derby always throws up tricky dynamics but it was important his team stayed focused ahead of the playoffs.
"A Super City derby seems an appropriate way to begin our build-up towards a home playoff.
"Super City derbies are always interesting matches regardless of where each team is in the league.
"Sunday's match doesn't mean much in terms of league position but derby matches always throw up unique and tricky challenges and Waitakere United will pose a difficult encounter for us.
"We are preparing for a home semi-final so it is important that we commit ourselves to a good performance.
"The matches start to take on greater importance and the pressure increases whether it is the ISPS Handa Premiership or the OFC Champions League.
"If we are to reach our objectives then we must effectively win five 'finals games' in a row, a tough ask of any team."
We need to show strength, resilience, quality and character, as we have done in all the competitions we've competed in this season, for every minute of every game," he told www.aucklandcityfc.com.
The match kicks off at 4.35pm NZST and is live on Sky Sport.
ISPS Handa Premiership
Sunday 17 March 2019
Auckland City FC v Waitakere United
Kiwitea Street, Sandringham
Kick-off: 4.35pm NZST
AC (squad chosen from): 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 2. Jackson WOODS, 3. Thomas DRILLIEN, 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, 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), 27. Takuya IWATA
COACH: Ramon TRIBULIETX.