Ba FC will open Group D of the OFC Champions League 2020 against Auckland City FC in Tahiti on Sunday as part of a pool that Ba coach Ricki Herbert says may be the hardest in the competition.
Auckland City represent a daunting task for Ba given their status as nine-time champions of Oceania during a sustained period of excellence since claiming their maiden title in 2006.
Ba progressed to the quarter-finals of the competition last year but were pipped 2-1 in extra-time by eventual champions Hienghène Sport so they know what it takes to move on from their group.
Herbert only took charge a few weeks ago but has revamped the club’s training regime ahead of the Champions League.
“We certainly look forward to what is probably, or arguably, the most challenging group across the league,” Herbert said.
“It’s a real tough one first up but something we can really focus on and look forward to.”
Ba are only one game into their 2020 Fiji Premier League campaign, but Herbert said he had been impressed with the commitment and dedication of his side.
Meanwhile, Auckland City FC coach Jose Figueira said Sunday’s game which starts at 5pm (TAH time) represented a tricky opening to the competition.
“We are expecting a really tough test and at the same time, we come in full of confidence that if we can play the way that we can then we know that we should be able to get the results that we want,” Figueira said.
Those desired results are victories that would see them advance to the knockout stages.
Auckland City suffered a shock 2-1 defeat in the semifinals to AS Magenta last year, which laboured the point that nobody in the competition can be taken lightly.
“There’s no hiding the fact that the club has a big appetite to get back to clinching the title, but the journey is a long one.”
Heavy rain has forced the games on match day one to be moved to Stade Pater from Stade Mahina.
Tahitian club AS Venus – who normally play at Stade Mahina – are giving up home advantage in a sense but should still enjoy strong local support for their clash with Samoan club Lupe Ole Soaga SC, which starts at 8pm (TAH time).
Venus coach Sam Garcia said his club was ready to make an impact in what will be their first appearance in the Champions League since 2018.
“We’re not going to have any superiority complex; we’ll be staying focused. There’ll be a bit of stress for the first match but that’s normal, it’s the Champions League,” he said.
“We’ll stay focused on our game and won’t change too much.”
Venus boast a number of Tahitian national team players in their squad and are 10-time Tahiti Ligue 1 winners.
Lupe won the Qualifying Stage tournament in Auckland in January and coach Paul Ualesi said they were ready to embrace the challenge of meeting AS Venus first up.
“We are here to compete. We are not here to participate for this tournament,” Ualesi said.
“We are here to compete at this level, but we are going to be well prepared for that game on Sunday.”
Lupe have whistled up imports Jamie Mason and Tom Mosquera to complement goalkeeper Zane Green who also played for Lupe in the qualifying stage.
They should prove handy additions to the likes of defender Andrew Setefano who has plenty of experience at this level.
All teams will be working towards the goal of finishing in the top two of the group to push on to the quarter-finals. The top side from Group D will earn home advantage for their quarter-final.
Ba FC vs Auckland City FC
Sunday 1 March
Tahiti, KO: 17:00
Click on link for the live stream: http://bit.ly/382esP1
Referee: Mederic LACOUR (NCL)
Assistant Referee 1: Bertrand BRIAL (NCL)
Assistant Referee 2: Marc SINYEUE (NCL)
Fourth Official: Hamilton SIAU (SOL)
Fifth Official: David YAREBOINEN (PNG)
Ba FC – 1. Beniamino MATEINAQARA, 4. Manasa NAWAKULA, 6. Simione NABENU, 7. Micah TOMMY, 8. Darold KAKASI, 9. Abbu ZAHID, 10. Savenaca NAKALEVU, 11. Ilimotama JESE, 14. Samuela DRUDRU, 15. Saula WAQA, 16. Malakai TIWA, 17. Benjamin TOTORI, 18. Laisenia NAIOKO, 19. Sanaila WAQANICAKAU, 20. Sumeet GOUNDAR, 21. Atunaisa NAUCUKIDI, 22. Misiwani NAIRUBE
Head Coach – Ricki HERBERT (New Zealand)
Auckland City FC – 2. Mario ILICH, 3. Adam MITCHELL, 4. Mario BILEN, 5. Angel BERLANGA, 6. Brian KALTACK, 7. Cameron HOWIESON, 8. Albert RIERA, 9. Myer BEVAN, 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 11. Tom DOYLE, 13. Emiliano TADE, 14. Jordan VALE, 17. Andrew BLAKE, 18. Conor TRACEY, 20. Logan ROGERSON, 22. Clayton LEWIS, 23. Alfie ROGERS, 24. Cameron BROWN
Head Coach – Jose FIGUEIRA (England)
Lupe Ole Soaga SC vs AS Venus
Sunday 1 March
Tahiti, KO: 20:00
Click on link for the live stream: http://bit.ly/2I0lTeX
Referee: Joel HOPKEN (VAN)
Assistant Referee 1: Jeremy GARAE (VAN)
Assistant Referee 2: Stephen SENIGA (SOL)
Fourth Official: George TIME (SOL)
Fifth Official: Johnny NIABO (SOL)
Lupe Ole Soaga SC – 2. Albert BELL, 3. Suivai ATAGA, 4. Ritchievoy UELIGITONE, 5. Tauati TANOAI, 6. Andrew SETEFANO, 7. Jamie MASON, 8. Arona MATAU, 9. Vaa TAUALAI, 10. Jarvis FILIMALAE, 11. Tomas MOSQUERA, 12. John TEO, 13. Bitner TAFILI, 14. Osa SAVELIO, 15. Ronnie BOURNE, 16. Soliai LETUTUSA, 17. Isaako SIONE, 20. Zane GREEN
Head Coach – Paul UALESI (Samoa)
AS Venus – 1. Teave TEAMOTUAITAU, 3. Kevin BARBE, 4. Jean-Claude PARAUE, 5. Hauragi HURI, 6. Tefai FAEHAU, 7. Marama AMAU, 8. Pothin POMA, 9. Tauhiti KECK, 10. Teaonui TEHAU, 11. Yann PENNEQUIN-LE-BRAS, 12. Mauarii TEHINA, 13. Stanley ATANI, 15. Ariiura LABASTE, 16. Etienne TAVE, 17. Tamatoa TETAUIRA, 19. Tehotu GITTON, 20. Kitin MARO, 22. Tevaearai TAMATAI
Head Coach – Samuel GARCIA (Tahiti)
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