But co-coaches Aaron McFarland and Ramon Tribulietx are refusing to let that alter their approach to the game and will adopt the same positive style that has served them well so far. A 2-1 win over fellow finalists Amicale in the 1st leg at Port Vila on April 2 has put City in a good position to qualify for their third FIFA Club World Cup – and earn a US$500,000 pay cheque - but the coaching pair insist the outcome of the earlier match will have little bearing on the events of Sunday afternoon.

“We need to face the game like it’s a one-off, we don’t really want to sit on that score,” Tribulietx says. “It was a good result for us obviously but we want to play the game as if it’s nil-all and try to win it.”

“It’s dangerous for us to try a different approach,” adds McFarland. “Ninety minutes is a long period of time and for us to try to defend that lead would be going away from the principles that have taken us to this position. We’re sticking to our guns – we’ve practiced this way for eight months and we’re not going to go away from it now.”

Despite holding the advantage going into the match and being the only undefeated team in the 2011 O-League, City have needed to bounce back from a bitter disappointment this week and restoring their players’ confidence has been one of the main tasks faced by McFarland and Tribulietx. Auckland lost a thrilling ASB Premiership grand final 3-2 to fierce rivals Waitakere United last Sunday and have had to recover quickly for the all-important Amicale clash.

“We started on Tuesday by having a clean slate,” McFarland says. “Usually, we’ll review the previous game and talk about some things we did well, and other things we need to address. But we’ve just wiped the board this week and said, ‘That game is history’. It has no effect – unless we let it – on this weekend’s game. This is the number one goal that we set at the start of the year so we need to put missing out on our number two goal to one side.”

The City coaching staff were very impressed with their opponent’s showing in Port Vila and are fully aware that hanging on to their advantage is far from a foregone conclusion.

“They’re dangerous and have some great players, especially in the front four,” Tribulietx says. “They are very quick and good on the ball. We’re going to have to be very careful with the way we defend. It’s a tight pitch so there might be a lot of opportunities for both sides.”

One player the City defence, which has been superbly marshaled by captain and All White Ivan Vicelich, will have to keep an eye on is Golden Boot Fenedy Masauvakalo. The Vanuatu frontman hit six goals during the group stages and, if City weren’t already mindful of his talents, they certainly are now after seeing him become just the third player to breach their rearguard with Amicale’s sole goal in the 1st leg.

“He’s got all the assets of a striker – regardless of how you want to play, that guy can do a job,” McFarland says. “But there’s plenty of other good players in there, we thought Jack Wetney and Gibson Daudau were also impressive. That genuine pace can really trouble you - if you don’t defend properly, they’ll take advantage of that. Fortunately for us, we’ve got a lot of experienced and skilled defenders. They will provide challenges but I think we’re definitely ready for that.”

Nearly 8,000 fans packed into PVL Stadium for the 1st leg and, while Auckland’s Kiwitea St ground cannot accommodate such large numbers, the club are hoping for a similarly boisterous home crowd to give City an advantage.

“I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all the supporters to turn up and get behind us, as they did against Waitakere last weekend,” Tribulietx says. “We definitely hear them when they start chanting names and it’s going to be a tough game so we need that support.”

Amicale technical director William Malas, who is joined on the coaching staff by coach Luke Eroi and assistant Philemon John, agrees the tie can still go either way and believes his men have every chance of creating history by becoming the first Vanuatu team to qualify for the Club World Cup.

“They are ready for the game and the training has been going very well,” Malas says. “We had a few injuries to worry about but everybody is now fit. We felt we should have beaten Auckland back home - we gave them the opportunity to win. It’s an open door for us now, we’ve seen how Auckland play and know we can beat them.”

The Reds will have to do so without one of their star players, Alick Maemae, who also missed the 1st leg. The Solomon Islands playmaker is one of the most skilful players in the Pacific but has not been available to Amicale for the final due to personal commitments in his homeland.

“He needed to stay in the Solomon Islands and we weren’t able to get him to join us. He is a very good player so it’s disappointing not to have him,” Malas says of the former Auckland City midfielder.

The 18-strong Amicale squad touched down in Auckland on Wednesday and Malas says they have adjusted quickly to the conditions.

“It’s a little bit colder in the evening and at night but during the day it seems like we have brought our Vanuatu weather with us. The sunshine has been beautiful and we hope this weather will continue until Sunday.”

2011 O-League 2nd Leg Final

Auckland City [NZL] vs. Amicale [VAN]
Sunday 17 April
Auckland, New Zealand
Kiwitea St
Local kick-off: 2pm

Referee: Norbert HAUATA [TAH]
Assistant referee 1: Tevita MAKASINI [TGA]
Assistant referee 2: David CHARLES [PNG]
Fourth Official: Andrew ACHARI [FIJ]

Auckland City: 1. Jacob SPOONLEY [GK], 2. Angel BERLANGA, 3. Ian HOGG, 4. Sam CAMPBELL, 6. Stuart KELLY, 7. James PRITCHETT, 8. David MULLIGAN, 9. Manel EXPOSITO, 10. Luis CORRALES, 11. Daniel KOPRIVCIC, 12. Liam LITTLE [GK], 13. Alex FENERIDIS, 14. Adam DICKINSON, 15. Ivan VICELICH, 16. Albert VIDAL, 17. Adam McGEORGE, 22. Andrew MILNE, 23. Adam THOMAS
Coaches: Aaron McFARLAND and Ramon TRIBULIETX

Amicale: 1. Ernest BONG [GK], 3. Young PAUL, 4. Selwyn SESE ALA, 5. Richard ANISUA, 6. Nelson SALE, 7. Jean-Robert YELOU, 8. Jerry SHEM, 9. Dereck MALAS, 10. Batram SURI, 11. Fenedy MASAUVAKALO, 13. Gibson DAUDAU, 14. Moffat DERAMOA, 15. Alphonse BONGNAIM, 18. Richard GARAE, 19. Jack WETNEY, 22. Chikau MANSALE [GK], 25. Stanley WAITA, 29. Seimata CHILIA
Coach: Luke EROI