x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

New Zealanders dream of Barca but concentrate on Atlante

Auckland City assistant coach Ramon Tribulietx knows only too well what lies in store for his team of inexperienced amateurs.

ABU DHABI // Auckland City assistant coach Ramon Tribulietx knows only too well what lies in store for his team of inexperienced amateurs if they can overcome Mexico's Atlante tonight in the quarter-finals of the Club World Cup. Tribulietx was born in Barcelona and it is the champions of Europe who await the winners of the clash at Zayed Sports City this evening. But while the Spaniard admitted it would be a dream come true to help pit Paul Posa's side against the likes of compatriots Xavi and Andres Iniesta, he insisted he is focusing only on the next game.

"For me, being from Barcelona, to play them in the semi-finals of the Club World Cup would be unbelievable," he said. "But I want to concentrate on Atlante. "This is the biggest game Auckland City have ever played and the players are going to have to be at their very best to go through." Posa will be glad to learn his No 2 is focused; the coach credited Tribulietx's exhaustive research of Al Ahli as the deciding factor behind the New Zealanders 2-0 win on Wednesday. Now the research has shifted to the Concacaf champions.

"I managed to get some footage of them over the summer as I knew they might be one of our opponents in this tournament," confirmed Tribulietx, who joined Auckland last season. "We've done our homework. The danger-man is obviously [striker Santiago] Solari as he's played for Real Madrid and Inter Milan - he is their main player. "But overall, they are a very good team, very composed on the ball and it is definitely going to be a big step up for us."

Posa is ready to welcome James Pritchard back into the squad after the Kiwi pulled up with a hamstring strain, but there are doubts whether the 27-year-old defender can displace Jason Hayne, who shone after receiving a late call-up. "Fortunately for me, but unlucky for Pritchy, I got given a start and hopefully I've done enough to cement a place in the team," said Hayne, who claimed an assist on his way to winning man of the match.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae