By Bob Pearce / asbpremiership.co.nz
AUCKLAND - Kickoff may be at 2pm on Sunday at Kiwitea St but the Rising Sun will be hovering over the ASB Premiership game between Auckland City and YoungHeart Manawatu.
Barely 24 hours later Auckland will be heading for Japan and the FIFA World Club Cup and their players would not be human if they did not have the bigger stage on their minds.
Their qualifying game on December 8 against the J-League champions will be in a state-of-the-art stadium in Toyota City with 45,000 local fans cheering their heroes.
It will be a much more modest crowd on Sunday but loyal fans will want a winning sendoff in the homely surroundings of Kiwitea St with the aroma of steak sandwiches on the breeze and the Bucket Man beating out his support.
Like the rest of the Premiership teams, Manawatu wish Auckland every success in Japan, but they will be keen to take advantage of any lapses of commitment to record their first win of the season.
Auckland coach Ramon Tribulietx is a realist when he weighs up the prospects of his team retaining the focus that has seen them top the Premiership table after winning three out of three.
“It’s human nature that they will be thinking about Japan but that has been a prospect all the way through and we’ve managed to focus on each game,” he said.
“It’s perhaps not ideal to be playing the game such a short time before we leave, but we can’t complain about it.
“I believe in competing week in week out and it is important for us to win this game for the Premiership. We have 10 days for the players to get over any minor injuries they pick up.”
Tribulietx rejects the idea of resting all his stars as clubs have done to their cost in similar circumstances. But star striker Manel Exposito will not be playing after picking up a minor knock in the 2-0 O-League victory over Hekari last Saturday.
Despite their lack of a win so far, he will not be underestimating the potential for Manawatu to spring a surprise.
“There’s always a danger of taking a team too lightly, and Stu Jacobs’ teams are always pretty tough. They have some speedy strikers, including Seule Soromon, and we will prepare well to meet that threat.”
Manawatu come north after the major disappointment of losing 3-2 at home to Otago United after leading 2-0 at halftime. Their only point came from a 2-2 draw with Hawkes Bay United in the second round.
But many of their players have enjoyed success when travelling to Auckland. They played for Wairarapa when they upset the odds by beating the Northern Premier League champions Bay Olympic in the Chatham Cup semifinals.
The only goal of the game was scored by Soromon and took the Central League team into the final where they beat Napier to win the cup for the first time. It was a victory against the odds and something similar will be needed on Sunday.
There are call-ups for the experienced James PRITCHETT, Sam CAMPBELL while youngster Simon ARMS is also promoted.
Stu JACOBS hands a call-up to goalkeeper Andrew DRAKE, while Barry LEWIS is also included in the Match Day squad.
Halili NAGIME also returns to the Youth team.
Michael FRASER (broken collarbone) and Tomas MOSQUERA (sprained ankle) are both unavailable.
With the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011 looming on the horizon for Auckland City, coach Ramon TRIBULIETX rests both Chad COOMBES and Manel EXPOSITO for this match.
YoungHeart’s only victory at Kiwitea Street came in April, 2010 when they thumped the home side 4-1 thanks to goals by Seule SOROMON with a brace, Campbell BANKS and Takayushi OMI.
Auckland City dominated YoungHeart Manawatu last season with two wins on the way to the playoffs.
YoungHeart Manawatu has lost eight, drawn one and won one in ten previous away matches with Auckland City.
ASB Premiership - Round 4
1- Jacob SPOONLEY (GK)
19- Matt BORREN (GK)
3- Ian HOGG
2- Nobu ISHI
4- Sam CAMPBELL
3- Josh CHETTLEBURGH
5- Angel BERLANGA
4- Jamie O'CONNOR
7- James PRITCHETT
6- Matt KENNEDY
8- David MULLIGAN
8- Nathan COOKSLEY
10- Luis CORRALES
9- Suele SOROMON
11- Daniel KOPRIVCIC
10- Cory CHETTLERBURGH
13- Alex FENERIDIS
11- Jimmy HAIDAKIS
14- Adam DICKINSON
12- Andrew DRAKE (GK)
15- Ivan VICELICH (c)
14- Pablo MOYA
16- Albert RIERA
15- Stu LAWRIE
17- Adam McGEORGE
17- Jordan MARTENS
20- Emiliano TADE
18- Barry LEWIS
21- Andreu GUERAO
20- Joachim RANDE
22- Andrew MILNE
25- Jono STEELE
23- Simon ARMS