By Bob Pearce / asbpremiership.co.nz
AUCKLAND - It’s like Athletic Bilbao travelling to the Nou Camp to take on Barcelona. That’s Waikato coach Declan Edge’s take on his team’s trip to Kiwitea St to take on Auckland City on Sunday.
Trust the innovative coach to come up with a comparison from the Spanish League to convey the task facing his young charges as they tackle the ASB Premiership leaders with their coach, Ramon Tribulietx, and his talented squad, several of whom speak the language and try to emulate the skills of the world champions.
“It’s a huge step up for us and a big challenge,” said Edge. “Only a few weeks ago I was watching Auckland play the Japanese champions and I thought they were very, very unlucky not to get something from that game.
“They came to our ground at the start of the season and beat us 5-1. We did say we would find it hard at the start and as games go on we would be more dangerous.
“We’re looking forward to Sunday. I’ve said I think Auckland are the best I’ve seen in 25 years and we can learn from the masters.”
Waikato come north fresh from a 2-0 victory over Otago United in Dunedin and, after a slow start, now lie sixth in the Premiership. For the record Athletic Bilbao lie fifth in La Liga. They drew 2-2 at home with Barcelona in November and don’t travel to the Nou Camp until April.
Edge would have been given hope of an upset result for his team on Sunday after Auckland struggled to beat Amicale of Vanuatu 3-2 in an O-League clash on Wednesday.
The home team were ahead 2-1 at the break but clearly felt the effects of playing two games in five days and were relieved to come out 3-2 victors after the visitors took advantage of their tired legs in the second spell. A third game in the space of eight days will be a further challenge.
“It’s going to be very tough,” said Tribulietx after the O-League scare. “We played all right in the first half and they scored from a one-off chance but we tired in the second half and the players were clearly feeling the effects of playing twice in quick succession after the Christmas break.
“We’ll have to recover as well as possible for Sunday because Waikato know how to keep the ball and they have gained confidence.
“Their coach deserves a lot of credit for playing a different style and giving the young players a chance to develop their game. It is definitely the way of the future for New Zealand football.”
Waikato captain Adam Thomas opted to move back over the Bombays after a spell with Auckland City last season. He will relish the chance to chase points against his old team, who are still reorganising their defence after fullback Ian Hogg flew out for a trial in Sweden.
As Amicale exerted pressure on Wednesday, the well-oiled machine developed some uncharacteristic misfires.
Mario ILICH and Simon ARMS are called up for first team action.
Ryan THOMAS is added to the squad after overcoming injury.
Sam CAMPBELL and Ian HOGG leave for trials in Australia and Sweden respectively, while Thomas DOYLE eyes a US College Scholarship.
Luis CORRALES is suspended.
Waikato FC skipper Adam THOMAS returns to Kiwitea Street for the first time since helping Auckland City win last year's OFC Champions League.
Auckland City has won ten matches in a row with Waikato FC with last season’s encounters yielding 3-2 and 5-1 victories for the O-League champions.
Waikato FC’s first and last win over Auckland City at Kiwitea Street was a 2-1 victory back in 2004-05 season. Declan EDGE is the only Waikato FC coach to oversee wins over Auckland City with 1-0 and 2-1 home wins notched in 2005-06 season.
ASB Premiership - Round 8
1- Jacob SPOONLEY (GK)
1- Mark FULCHER (GK)
5- Angel BERLANGA
2- Tyler LISSETTE
6- Chad COOMBES
3- Jesse SMITH
7- James PRITCHETT
4- Mohammed AWAD
8- David MULLIGAN
6- Mike KRAMER
9- Manel EXPOSITO
7- Jason HICKS
11- Daniel KOPRIVCIC
8- Matteo BALLAN
13- Alex FENERIDIS
10- Adam THOMAS (c)
14- Adam DICKINSON
14- Josh GREENE
15- Ivan VICELICH (c)
15- Jesse EDGE
16- Albert RIERA
16- Ray HOW
17- Adam McGEORGE
17- Michael MAYNE
20- Emiliano TADE
19- Harry EDGE
22- Andrew MILNE
21- Tyler BOYD
23- Simon ARMS
23- Jordan SHAW
24- Mario ILICH
24- Ryan THOMAS
26- Liam ANDERSON (GK)