By Bob Pearce / asbpremiership.co.nz
AUCKLAND - December 6 may be D-Day for Auckland City in the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan but the Kiwitea St faithful will be just as passionate for a win over Canterbury United on Saturday at the start of another ASB Premiership campaign.
Fact is Auckland may be Oceania champions and host club Central United may hold the historic Chatham Cup but the Premiership title resides out west as it has for the past couple of seasons.
And that rankles the fans of the navy blues.
New Zealand football in general will be cheering the Aucklanders on when they tackle the J-League champions in Yokohama next month for a chance to compete with the likes of Chelsea and Corinthians. But back on home soil a win over City is something all clubs cherish after the Aucklanders went through last season’s regular games unbeaten.
Are they vulnerable with their eyes set on the bigger prize? Defeat by Waitakere United in the ASB Charity Cup last weekend might suggest so, but they have been training assiduously and they should be fitter than teams such as Canterbury.
“A bit of a disappointment,” said coach Ramon Tribulietx of the Charity Cup defeat. “We played really well but came away with nothing.
“It’s all about putting your chances away. We didn’t. They did. There’s nothing we can do about it now and everybody’s ready to go in the Premiership.”
Missing from the game will be striker Manel Exposito, who was sent off in the closing stages of Auckland’s loss to Team Wellington in the second leg of last season’s Premiership semifinals. Goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley is out, replaced by Liam Anderson.
Tribulietx is impressed by how quickly Chris Bale, recruited from Waitakere, has adjusted to Auckland’s possession passing game and he lauds the talent of young Jason Hicks from Waikato.
But we have yet to see what star recruit Pedro Garcia from Sporting Charleroi in Belgium can do. He previously played for Sporting de Gijon in the Spanish second division.
“He’s still not fit and needs a bit of time. He can play right back, midfield or up front,” said Tribulietx.
Canterbury have a new assistant coach, Bulgarian Tsetso Ivanov, who will help coach Keith Braithwaite with player development. In contrast to Auckland’s extensive preparation the Southerners are probably short of a gallop. They beat Otago United 2-0 in a pre-season game at snowy Timaru.
ASB Premiership Golden Boot winner George Slefendorfas has migrated to Waitakere United but the attacking duo of Aaron Clapham and Russell Kamo are still a threat. Michael Fifii is back and Darren White has returned from England.
Canterbury finished second in the Premiership last season and Braithwaite, while lamenting the lack of match preparation, promises another strong effort.
“We’ve not got the easiest of draws but our aim is to do the best we can. You only enter a competition like this to try to win it and on our day we are capable of beating anyone.”
The odds must favour the home side in Saturday’s Kiwitea St clash, though Canterbury have had a couple of famous victories on the boutique Sandringham ground.
And a second loss of the new season could raise storm signals over Auckland’s Japanese adventure.
Pedro GARCIA, Chris BALE and Takuya IWATA are in line for ASB Premiership debuts for the navy blues while Liam ANDERSON is called up as back up glove man.
Chris MURPHY and Tristan NICOL are in line for their ASB Premiership debuts.
Manel EXPOSITO is suspended after a red card received in last season’s semi-final, second leg, defeat to Team Wellington. Jacob SPOONLEY is left out of the squad
George SLEFENDORFAS transferred to Waitakere United in the off-season.
James PRITCHETT could make his 117th ASB Premiership appearance.
The club’s leading goalscorers Russell KAMO (23 goals) and Aaron CLAPHAM (19 goals) will make their 48th ASB Premiership career appearances, if selected.
Auckland City went the entire 2011/12 season undefeated in the regular season. The last time they were beaten in this phase of the competition was by Canterbury United at Kiwitea Street back in week 16 of the 2010/11 season when a Ken YAMAMOTO goal gave the visitors a 1-0 win.
Canterbury United’s last four visits to Kiwitea Street have yielded two wins, a draw and a solitary defeat.
ASB Premiership - Round 1
Saturday 3 November, 2012
12- Tamati WILLIAMS (GK)
1- Tom BATTY (GK)
2- Simon ARMS (A)
2- Dan TERRIS
3- Takuya IWATA
3- Vladimir BAYREV
4- Riki van STEEDEN
4- Nick WORTELBOER
5- Angel Luis Vina BERLANGA
5- Tom SCHWARZ
6- Chris BALE
6- Chris MURPHY
7- James PRITCHETT
7- Darren WHITE
8- Jason HICKS
8- Aaron CLAPHAM
10- Luis CORRALES
9- Russell KAMO
11- Daniel KOPRIVCIC
10- Dimitar BAYREV
13- Alex FENERIDIS
12- Andy BARTON
14- Adam DICKINSON
14- Josh SMITH
15- Ivan VICELICH (c)
15- Julyan COLLETT
16- Albert RIERA
20- Ken YAMAMOTO
17- Pedro GARCIA
21- Tristan NICOL
18- Liam ANDERSON (GK)
22- Adam HIGHFIELD (GK)
20- Emiliano TADE
Coach - Keith BRAITHWAITE
22- Andrew MILNE
Coach - Ramon TRIBULIETX