By Bob Pearce / asbpremiership.co.nz
AUCKLAND - Any hopes Manawatu harbour of an Auckland City Club World Cup hangover may have to be swept aside when the two teams clash at Kiwitea Street on Sunday.
Two years ago they flew into the Oceania champions’ den and took away three points with a 4-1 victory.
That was a catchup game at the end of the national league season when Auckland had been away chasing World Club Cup glory.
The Aucklanders are back home after a commendable performance in Japan last week but, whereas the 2010 clash meant nothing with the semifinalists already established, on Sunday Auckland will be resuming the ASB Premiership with two games in hand but in fourth place.
They are eight behind Waitakere, seven behind Canterbury and two behind Hawke's Bay.
“We have to re-focus,” said coach Ramon Tribulietx.
“It will be understandable if we are not at our best because it has been pretty intensive for the players.
“But we must play good enough to get three points. The good thing is we’re still in the playoff positions with two games in hand. We want to make the playoffs and peak again then.”
Tribulietx believes his team did their best in Japan only to be beaten 1-0 by a very good team in Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who pressed them very quickly with a world-class midfield and the lightning fast Mihael Mikic, a Croatian who earns $1 million a year in the J League.
But any dreams of luring him to the Croatian-dominated Central United Club end there.
“I thought our defence was very good, but in possession we were not so good,” said Tribulietx, who vows to continue the style that earned Auckland the chance in Japan.
All the team are back from Japan with the only major casualty defender James Pritchett, who has a hamstring injury.
The rest of the squad will have to make a couple of adjustments: there won’t be 25,000 spectators at Kiwitea and the temperature will be a lot warmer that the chilly stadium in Yokohama.
Manawatu come north after a disappointing 2-0 defeat by Canterbury in their last game in Palmerston North –a result which was particularly galling as they had the better of the exchanges everywhere but on the scoreboard.
“I can’t complain about the performance. It was one of the best of the past two years,” said coach Stu Jacobs.
“On the balance of play I thought it was one we deserved to get something out of.”
Manawatu broke their long losing streak by beating Otago United 3-0 in Dunedin in the first round of this season’s Premiership.
Tom Mosquera scored a hat-trick in that game and still tops the Golden Boot standings with seven, including two in the 3-2 defeat by Waikato a couple of weeks ago.
Also in the squad is a former Golden Boot winner, Seule Soromon, who scored two in that famous victory in May 2010.
The action kicks off at Kiwitea Street at 2pm on Sunday.
James PRITCHETT (hamstring injury) misses out on the visit of YoungHeart Manawatu, while there is no room for goalkeeper Jacob SPOONLEY, with Dan SARIC and Riki van STEEDEN also missing selection.
Khair JONES (ankle injury) and Sam REDWOOD (groin strain) are the only two Manawatu regulars to miss the cut for the journey north to Kiwitea Street.
Pedro Santa Cecilia GARCIA and David BROWNE are both bracketed for this match.
Seule SOROMON scored a brace in YoungHeart's last win over Auckland in 2010.
Auckland City has two games in hand on the rest of the field due to their participation at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan last week. City has won four consecutive matches in this fixture from the last five clashes, the other result a draw.
YoungHeart Manawatu has only one win from 12 visits to Kiwitea Street. That sole victory was a 4-1 thrashing administered in 2009 under former coach Bob SOVA. Manawatu has conceded 16 goals in their last four games with Auckland City at an average of four goals per game. They have scored two.
ASB Premiership - Round 7
12- Tamati WILLIAMS (GK)
1- Matt BORREN (GK)
2- Simon ARMS
2- Liam HIGGINS
3- Takuya IWATA
3- Wade RANDLE
5- Angel BERLANGA
4- Kade SCHRIJVERS
6- Jason HICKS
6- Matt KENNEDY
8- Chris BALE
8- Nathan COOKSLEY
9- Manel EXPOSITO
9- Seule SOROMON
10- Luis CORRALES
10- Adam COWAN (c)
11- Daniel KOPRIVCIC
11- Tom MOSQUERA
13- Alex FENERIDIS
14- Tyson BRANDT
14- Adam DICKINSON
15- Billy SCOTT
15- Ivan VICELICH (c)
17- Jordan MARTENS
16- Albert RIERA
18- Dale HIGHAM
17- Pedro Santa Cecilia GARCIA
19- Ben WILKES (GK)
18- Liam ANDERSON (GK)
22- Grant ROBSON
20- Emiliano TADE
23- Lewis CUMBER
21- David BROWNE
22- Andrew MILNE