Auckland City brace for Amicale challenge

Update: 10:55AM Auckland City FC’s bogey team, Amicale, is all that stands between them and a spot in the Oceania Champions League semifinals.

The two teams, both with two wins, play in a must-win pool match at ANZ Stadium in Suva on Saturday.

Vanuatu-based Amicale have lost to Auckland City three times in finals – twice in the Champions League and once in the President’s Cup in November last year. But the team, nicknamed the Red Roosters, ended Auckland’s 27-match unbeaten run in the Champions League three years ago and also beat them 1-0 in the Champions League in Lautoka last season.

Amicale has followed the Navy Blues’ pattern of mixing local talent with the best available from overseas often with spectacular results – Amicale beat Bahrain professional side Busaiteen 2-1 back in November.

Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx said Amicale had a good mix of experience and flair.

“Their quality and understanding of the game with players from Europe like Rajit Shala, Carlo Polli and Miguel Magnoni is important – they’re good players and have good experience. You bring that together with the talents of the local players like Micah Lea’alafa, Osea Vakatalesau, Kensi Tangis and someone like Nelson Sale at the back, who adds flair, then you have a good unit.

“Amicale can hurt you on the counter-attack, they can hurt you individually by making something unexpected happen,” Tribulietx said.

Auckland City’s loss to Amicale in the corresponding group match this time last season left the Navy Blues dangling over the edge of elimination and requiring AS Pirae to beat Waitakere United to go through.

A similar scenario looms on Friday with FC Gaitcha playing Lupe Ole Soaga in Group A and Hekari United playing AS Tefana in Group C.

Big wins for FC Gaitcha and Hekari United would have both on six points and go level with either Auckland City or Amicale. The final semifinal berth – awarded to the best group runner-up – would then come down to whichever team had the best goal difference.

“We have to go out there and play for a result and with our own ideas and not think about other possibilities otherwise we can lose focus,” Tribulietx said.

Auckland City have two injury concerns ahead of the clash, but Tribulietx remained optimistic about their recovery.

“We’ve recovered well, but we’ve had one or two injuries with Oscar Garcia and Ryan De Vries and we’re hoping to see at least one of them available,” he said.

The sides have met eight times with Auckland winning five, losing two and with one draw, but perhaps crucially it is the Navy Blues who seem to have the edge on their rivals in big matches.

“Amicale can present a lot of situations that will be difficult to deal with but we’re confident in our game that we can be competitive.

“We’ve learned some things about Amicale and we hope to be well prepared,” he said.

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