Exhausted Auckland 'vulnerable'

Paul O'Reilly
Paul O'Reilly
All-conquering Auckland City might actually be vulnerable tonight.

The premiership heavyweights have strung together 14 consecutive wins in the league.

Normally, the visitors would be at unbackable odds to dispatch Southern United at Sunnyvale tonight.

The home team has a crucial advantage: its opponent ought to be completely exhausted.

It has been quite a week for Auckland City. On Thursday it suffered a rare loss - a 1-0 defeat to a Hong Kong League XI at the Lunar New Year Cup in Hong Kong.

The team made its way back to Auckland for its match against the Phoenix Reserves on Sunday and registered a 2-1 win.

It can extend its run in the premiership this season to 15 wins in a row but only if the players can keep their eyes open.

Southern United coach Paul O'Reilly is not buying into the argument the team might be a little worse for wear.

''Potentially it is a good time to get them. But on the flip side they've won 14 out of 14 in the league, so I'm not sure if there is ever a good time to get Auckland,'' O'Reilly said.

''They are always very strong. They are top dogs in New Zealand football.

''Maybe it is a good time to get them but we'll know more after the game,'' O'Reilly added with a chuckle.

O'Reilly felt Auckland City had the depth to combat a taxing week. ''Whatever team they put up against us will be a strong team. They have quality everywhere,'' O'Reilly said.

The game is a replay of the match in late October which was abandoned just after halftime due to heavy rain which left the surface unsuitable.

Southern had been dominating that fixture.

Then, last month it led Auckland City 1-0 during their second round match.

The competition front-runners scored twice to win the game but O'Reilly felt his side could take some confidence out of that match.

''We were unfortunate to get beaten.

''But we've backed that up with three good results,'' O'Reilly said.

''So we've made more progress and we are definitely playing better football.''

Southern United has five round-robin games left and is 10 points outside the top four in fifth place,'' O'Reilly said.

A spot in the playoffs is ''unrealistic'' but the team is determined to finish the campaign well.

If Southern can hold on to fifth pace it would represent a ''massive success''.

''When you look at the resources that we are up against around the league in terms of finances and the physical resources in terms of a player base and the facilities available, finishing fifth would be a massive success.''

''I wouldn't say we've given up [on the top four] but we're realistic in that we'd have to go on an unbelievable run.

''It is not looking realistic but as long as we are still a chance we'll be having a little push for fourth place,'' O'Reilly said.

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