Riera back for Melbourne City friendlies

When Auckland City FC run out at the City Football Academy for their prestigious friendly against Melbourne City on Sunday, some of the players be motivated by a sense of Trans-Tasman rivalry.

Auckland City FC face Hyundai A-League opposition for the fifth time in their history as they build towards the start of New Zealand’s flagship domestic competition – the Stirling Sports Premiership.

The Oceania champions have fared well in matches with their Australian counterparts beating the Central Coast Mariners 3-1, losing just 3-2 to Sydney FC and earning a 1-0 win and 2-2 draw with the Wellington Phoenix.

The club’s ability to attract willing Australian opponents for pre-season friendlies appears to be a continuation of their growing reputation on and off the pitch.

Auckland City FC coach Ramon Tribulietx believes there is huge value in facing opponents who finished fourth in the Hyundai A-League’s regular season table earlier this year, even at this early stage of his squad’s preparations for the upcoming domestic season.

But he says there’s value to the exercise for both parties.

“When a club like Melbourne City is interested in playing Auckland City FC they see the value of the exercise otherwise they wouldn’t agree to play.

“Getting this game is something we’ve worked on for a long time and we’ve got another opportunity to face top quality opponents at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan in December.

“We’ve had a good track record in that competition over the years so people sit up and take notice of how you perform,” he said.

Melbourne City is coached by former Dutch international John van’t Schip and features former Wellington Phoenix defender Manny Muscat, the iconic Tim Cahill and former Aston Villa and Stoke City goalkeeper Thomas Sorenson.

By contrast, Tribulietx’s squad is still coming together with Micah Lea’alafa yet to return from the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Colombia and Clayton Lewis only just back from a successful OFC U-20 Championship in Vanuatu.

Nicolai Berry has obligations to relegation-threatened Western Springs in winter league football.

Despite the challenges of a squad slowly returning to competitive action in dribs and drabs, Tribulietx is happy with how preparations are shaping up.

“The squad we’ve put together looks very good and highly motivated and I hope we can gain a lot of positives from these games.

“The results don’t really matter at this early stage but what does is how we play against top level opposition.

“The challenge for us will be more the mental aspect and acknowledging that physically we won’t be completely ready.

“But tactically our players have been together for a long time so they pick up concepts quickly. Its a big test for us and for what is coming up later in the season,” he says.

Players returning to the fold include strikers Joao Moreira, Ryan De Vries and Emiliano Tade, while former Wellington Phoenix midfielder Albert Riera returns after three years away at the Wellington Phoenix.

“Its great to have a player of Albert’s experience. He can give us a different dimension to our game. He not only gives us something different with the ball but also without it.

“Albert’s a very smart player and proved he can compete at A-League standard and be one of the best players in the competition.

“For our squad Albert will add competition to what is a competitive squad. But its not just about Albert,” he says.

Falling into the new signing category is goalkeeper Enaut Zubikarai and Harry Edge.

Edge, whose cousin Jesse turned out for Auckland City FC last season, has been playing in Europe until recently while Zubikarai spent 10 years with La Liga outfit Real Sociedad as number two to current Manchester City stopper Claudio Bravo.

“Harry is only 22 but he’s got a great attitude and he and all the new players complement our squad in a positive way,” Tribulietx says.

Auckland City FC first face a Melbourne City reserves and youth side on Friday before fronting up just two days later with a clash against the first team.

In Zurich, Auckland City FC’s pathway at the FIFA Club World Cup was made clear following last night’s draw at FIFA headquarters.

The Oceania champions face the as yet to be determined J.League winners in Yokohama in the playoff on 8 December, the winner advancing to a clash with the winners of Africa’s Champions League competition in the quarter-finals.

Beyond that, a semi-final with the champions of South America awaits, replicating the route Auckland City FC explored when they won bronze in Morocco two years ago.

The Navy Blues open their Stirling Sports Premiership campaign at home to Waitakere United on October 16 at Kiwitea Street.

Ends

MATCH DETAILS

Pre-season friendly
Friday 23 September 2016
Melbourne City ‘A’ v Auckland City FC
City Football Academy, Melbourne
Kick-off: 3.15pm local time

Training Session
Saturday 24 September 2016
City Football Academy, Melbourne
11:00am – 12:30pm

Pre-season friendly
Sunday 25 September 2016
Melbourne City FC v Auckland City FC
City Football Academy, Melbourne
Kick-off: 10.00am local time

Club contact
Team Manager
Colin Cook
M: 021-221-5005
E: colinc@aucklandcityfc.com