By John Donnachie / asbpremiership.co.nz
CHRISTCHURCH - Something has got to give when minor premiers Auckland City travel south to face second placed Canterbury United at ASB Football Park on Sunday.
The Aucklanders enter the Dragons den looking to perserve their impressive unbeaten record and make history by becoming the first club since the league's inception in 2004 to finish the regular season undefeated.
Canterbury meanwhile will be determined to maintain their perfect home record which has seen all previous visitors to Christchurch leave with no points.
Not surprising then, both camps have banished any talk of this match being a dead rubber before the play-offs start in earnest.
Dragons coach, Keith Brathwaite, is preparing his troops for a battle royale against the team who have run away with the Premiership title this season.
He said the Dragons would go all out to win.
“We need to concentrate on the job ahead. It will be a big ask, but if we give it 110 percent I'm sure we will get a result.”
The Dragons coach said the enforced month break from the ASB Premiership campaign was a concern.
“We have players on yellow cards and with the break we have not been able to play games to clear those cards.”
Moreover, the Dragons would have to face the Aucklanders without the Premiership top goalscorer George Slefendorfas. The powerful Aussie hitman was still serving a suspension which stood from over a month again.
Braithwaite though could call on captain Dan Terris and Nick Wortelboer. Both defenders have been long-term absentees this season. Either could fill the midfield berth which had been compromised by the unfortunate departure of Joe Murray.
Josh Smith was likely to feature in the midfield alongside Julyan Collett.
When told that Auckland City were planning to field their strongest line-up, Braitwaite laughed and said “It was nice of them do that.”
Auckland City coach, Ramon Tribulietx, was preparing his team for a “very physical” encounter.
“This type of game is what everyone in the league should aspire to play in. Keith (Braithwaite) has done a great job down in Canterbury,” Tribulietx said.
While winning the match was not priority, Tribulietx promised to field his strongest available side.
“Some players were on cards and we have not been able to field our strongest team lately. We held them back from the games in the O-League. So this is the first opportunity in three weeks to play our best team.”
Teamwise the minor Premiers are in good shape for the trip south. Tribulietx said striker Adam McGeorge had a virus. There were a few niggles from the recent trip to Vanuatu. Otherwise Tribulietx had a full squad to pick from.
Match kicks off Sunday at 2pm.
Canterbury coach recalls Erik PANZER, Louie BUSH and long-time club servant Dan TERRIS recovers from an Achilles injury.
Auckland City welcome back Jacob SPOONLEY following a knee injury while David MULLIGAN, James PRITCHETT, Ian HOGG and Adam McGEORGE also earn recalls. Young goalkeeper Liam ANDERSON is also named in the squad.
ASB Premiership golden boot leader George SLEFENDORFAS is suspended, Joe MURRAY has returned to Scotland and Antony CIBILICH is dropped.
Riki van STEEDEN, Stephen CARMICHAEL and Tamati WILLIAMS drop out of contention.
Dan TERRIS has made 105 ASB Premiership career appearances and scored five goals. He has made just three appearances in the ASB Premiership this season due to injury.
James PRITCHETT is in line for his 158th club appearance for Auckland City - PRITCHETT is the club's most capped player. 114 of his appearances have been in the ASB Premiership, he has scored three goals.
History suggests the visitors start as favourites but Canterbury United can point to an outstanding home record this season that has produced six wins from six and an astonishing 27 goals for with just two against at ASB Football Park.
It’s been four years since Auckland City last tasted defeat away to Canterbury United. Ten matches away to Canterbury yielded six wins, two draws and two defeats since 2004 for the navy blues. Canterbury has toppled Auckland City twice in recent times with consecutive 1-0 and 3-0 wins at Kiwitea Street prior to this season.
ASB Premiership - Round 14
Sunday 8 April, 2012
1- Tom BATTY (GK)
1- Jacob SPOONLEY (GK)
2- Dan TERRIS
3- Ian HOGG
3- Mark JOHNSTON
5- Angel BERLANGA
4- Nick WORTELBOER
6- Chad COOMBES
5- Tom SCHWARZ
7- James PRITCHETT
7- Darren WHITE
8- David MULLIGAN
8- Aaron CLAPHAM (c)
9- Manel EXPOSITO
10- Russell KAMO
10- Luis CORRALES
12- Andy BARTON
11- Daniel KOPRIVCIC
13- Daniel GLOZIER
13- Alex FENERIDIS
14- Josh SMITH
14- Adam DICKINSON
15- Julyan COLLETT
15- Ivan VICELICH (c)
20- Ken YAMAMOTO
16- Albert RIERA
21- Erik PANZER
17- Adam McGEORGE
22- Adam HIGHFIELD (GK)
21- Ivan Diaz RUIZ
25- Louie BUSH
22- Andrew MILNE
23- Simon ARMS
26- Liam ANDERSON (GK)