Soccer: Auckland City may be gun-shy ahead of World Club campaign

By Kris Shannon

Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx.
Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx.

It may go against tradition and inclination, but Auckland City's players could pull out of a few challenges in the first Super City derby of the season.

While their match with Waitakere United at Kiwitea St would typically receive undivided attention, Auckland will have one eye on a long haul flight next week.

With their Club World Cup campaign kicking off on December 11, Auckland will head to Morocco, via Spain, on Tuesday, a task which will loom large over today's proceedings.

The derby has mellowed in recent years but, with Roy Krishna and Ryan de Vries facing Waitakere for the first time, there will be additional spice in the top-of-the-table battle.

Whether Auckland are keen for a fight is another question. The Club World Cup has been something of a white whale for the Oceania champions in recent seasons, desperate to repeat their heroics from 2009 but unable to advance past the first hurdle.

Coach Ramon Tribulietx yesterday named a full-strength squad for their fifth tilt at the tournament, which will begin - and possibly end - with a match against Moroccan champions Raja Casablanca in Agadir.

Auckland have played off with the local club at the past two editions - Japanese sides Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Kashiwa Reysol - and defeat in both matches has seen them unable to advance to the tournament proper.

Raja have a fine history, having won Africa's Champions League on three occasions, and they will present a tough obstacle for Oceania's best in their bid to emulate their quarter-finals trip four years ago.

Before then, though, Auckland have to take care of business at home against a Waitakere side on top of the league after three straight wins.

The West Aucklanders have shown few ill effects from the departure of key personnel in the offseason, and a victory on enemy territory will open a five-point gap between the rivals.

Much of the early promise in their quest for a fifth straight title has come from Scottish signing Jordan Lowdon, who has helped fill the void left by the defection of de Vries and Krishna.

The left winger has been at the heart of everything good for Waitakere so far this campaign, scoring twice in his side's perfect record. Waitakere's defence hasn't been bad, either, conceding just once from three games, a stoppage-time penalty.

That record will be sorely tested by a pair of erstwhile players, now foes.

Elsewhere, Wanderers SC hosts WaiBOP United at North Harbour Stadium tomorrow, with the youngsters seeking the second win of their history.

APNZ

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