Group D ready to grace Lawson Tama

Auckland City returns to Lawson Tama for the first time after 12 years as the Navy Blues set to clash with AS Magenta and hosts Solomon Warriors taking on preliminary winners Tupapa Maraerenga in 2019 OFC Champions League Group D opening matches on Sunday

The clash between nine time OFC Champions League champions Auckland City and AS Magenta is set to be a thriller as both teams are keen to finish in the top two positions in Group D.

Fresh from an undefeated run domestically, Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx is confident ahead of the clash with AS Magenta.

“Look we’re confident in ourselves, on the type of game we can play, we are getting adaptive, used to the heat, right now it’s quite warm but look it is what it is, we don’t want to cry, we’re just going to take it on board, and make sure we play a good game tomorrow,” he said.

“We have a lot of respect for Magenta, we’ve played them so many times and we understand they’re one of those very dangerous teams that if they catch us a little under or unorganized they can hurt us with those skillful players they have, especially in the front line, so we understand how hard it’s going to be, but we want to make sure we are determined and committed to playing a good game.”

The Spaniard is anticipating a big turn out from the home crowd and believe that both teams would put on a show.

“I hope that it’s a good game for the people, I hope that a lot of people come to the game, this is a football country, so we’re expecting a good crowd there and that will motivate us and Magenta to again make it more entertaining,” Tribulietx added.

AS Magenta are returning to familiar territory after their third place finish in the same group last season in Honiara.

The New Caledonia side had played Auckland City in the past and it was a close affair between the two teams in the Oceania premier club competition.

AS Magenta coach Alain Moizan said preparation wise his team is ready to take on the favourites.

“We’ve been preparing for a month, a month-and-a-half now. It’s been tough because we don’t have any games in our legs, just four small friendly matches and we’re up against Auckland the favourites so all we can do is our best,” he said.

“We know Auckland are strong, they’re the favourites of this group and it will be incredibly difficult for us. We’ll do our best and we’ll see how it goes Sunday”.

Moizan recalled on their ill-fated campaign last season and said that they are expecting to play the same type of teams this year.

“It’s pretty close to the same configuration as last year. Last year it was Wellington, this year it’s Auckland.

“Last year it was Marist, this year Warriors. I know for Warriors the preparations have been difficult as well, it’s been really wet, the field hasn’t been good and they also have started their championship.

“Last year we dominated Marist – it was a draw but we dominated Marist – we were just missing goals which we needed to win.

“The conditions are similar to last year, we’re playing at 13h it’s incredibly hot and we’ll be trying to do better against Auckland. Last year we were ahead in the first 30 minutes and we kept pressing. We can’t keep pressing, this year we’ll play differently, we’ll have different tactics,” Moizan explained.

Hosts Solomon Warriors will be playing at home for the first time in the OFC Champions League.

Despite having the comfort to play in their own backyard, Solomon Warriors are expecting a tough opener against the Cook Islanders.

Solomon Warriors coach Moses Toata said they expecting a tough game against the visitors on Sunday.

“I am expecting a hard game against Tupapa on Sunday, I am not taking anything lightly because they are here to compete,” he said.

“I think it’s more of a responsibility to deliver in front of our home crowd. We normally here for the local league, our domestic league, but on the international level this our first time to compete against other teams in front of our own crowd.

“It will be a little bit of a pressure on the boys, but I hope the boys will be calm and try to focus on our game,” the former Solomon Islands international said.

Tupapa Maraerenga coach Delaney Yaqona said playing in the group stage is another step up for his team.

“As I’ve said before, you can’t get much bigger than the Solomon Islands in Honiara, we’ve seen Solomon teams play here, maybe not the Warriors, but I know that they will play like any other team that’s played on their home ground,” he said.

“I mean it’s a magnificent stadium, you look up into the mountain side you see it packed with people you’ve got to contend with.  As football plays you’ve gotta expect it where ever you go, and so it’s about getting the mindset right.”

The Cooks had a clean sweep in the qualifying stage at home and Yaqona stressed his boys will be expecting a fast pace game.

“The main target is just the speed of the game.  Coming from the tournament we played the game is a lot slower, so we could dictate the way we wanted to play and force the game from there.

“Whereas now we know the game is going to be much faster, players are less likely to lose the ball and move the ball with one or two touches, and so for the boys it’s getting into the mindset that we’ve got to be able to travel when the ball travels, be able to shut down plays so that they’re not going through, and force them to go wide,” the Fijian added.