The champions of Japan are fresh off the back of a two-legged J.League final victory over Gamba Osaka, their third title win in four seasons under revered coach Hajime Moriyasu.
With key players Hisato Sato, Kazuyuki Morisaki and Croatian talisman Mihael Mikic all fit and raring to go, Hiroshima are arguably more formidable now than when they beat the Navy Blues 1-0 three years ago at the same venue.
The team strategy of quick passing and constant movement off the ball that guided Sanfrecce to consecutive J.League titles in 2012 and 2013 remains unchanged and with it an ability to perform in big games.
But there are some pointing to Auckland City FC’s fairytale run to the bronze medal last year as an indicator that perhaps there is an upset on the cards.
Tribulietx insists the task in front of his team remains as steep as ever given the gulf in financial resources and quality of their respective domestic competitions.
“We’re up against the Japanese champions and they’re going to be very motivated, they’ve just won the league.
“We are playing away from home in a one off game and to reach the level we are required to is difficult for us regardless of whether we’ve got plenty of experience or not.
“But maybe our experiences of last year will help us tune up a bit earlier in the game tonight,” he said.
Hiroshima has had a long season with no less than 37 matches in their championship success with very little break in between while the Navy Blues enjoyed a morale-boosting 1-1 draw with Yokohama on December 4.
But any suggestion that that result and potential Hiroshima fatigue may play into Auckland City FC’s hands is swept aside by Tribulietx
“Its hard to say what the effect of their title run-in will be. Hiroshima have been in competitive action recently and we’ve not played a competitive match in 10 days.
“We had a friendly with Yokohama FC but its not the same as a competition game.
“The J.League victory over Gamba Osaka was difficult for Hiroshima and it was a close match but their sense of excitement and relief at winning the competition could lift them up for this game.
“We are prepared for a very tough game and we understand they are the best team in Japan and they deserve that title. They have plenty of talent in their squad and its going to be a very tough task for us,” he said.
Tribulietx has a full squad to pick from with Angel Berlanga looking sharp in the team’s official training session at Yokohama International Stadium last night.
Marko Dordevic, another of Auckland City FC’s key performers in Morocco last year, has also come through a solid week of training after picking up a niggle in the team’s draw with Yokohama FC.
The match officials for the game are from Cameroon and led by referee Alioum alongside assistants Evarist Menkouande and Elvis Noupue.
The game kicks off at 7.45pm local time (11.45pm NZST) with the match broadcast live on Sky Sport.
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