Auckland City’s first round opponents at the FIFA Club World Cup face an intense schedule of league and cup games ahead of the sudden death clash in Morocco.
Egyptian Premier League leaders Al Ahly face Auckland City in the opening game of the tournament, expected to take place on February 2 (NZT).
The winners of that game are expected to collect at least US$1 million in prizemoney while the losers exit the tournament with an anticipated US$500,000.
Ahead of the game, Al Ahly have five EPL fixtures and a semi-final in the Egypt Cup lined up in January.
This follows three games over New Year in which Al Ahly drew at midtable Ceramica Cleopatra and then beat fourth-placed Pyramids 3-0 to go three points clear at the top of the table.
Between their latest league games, Al Ahly played a behind-closed-doors friendly against the Ghana national side who are preparing for the African Nations Championship.
Ghana won the friendly 3-1.
Coach Riera: ‘It will be an interesting game’
Meanwhlle, Auckland City look forward to meeting the side they last met in the quarter-finals of the 2006 Club World Cup when the Egyptians won 2-0.
Interviewed by Al Hayat TV, Auckland City head coach Albert Riera said:
“I know that Al Ahly is the most successful team in Egypt and Africa to take part in this tournament.
“It will be a tough game but we have a good team and everything will be possible. My staff follow Al Ahly, and we know a number of players there and how they play.
“We also know Marcel Koller, who is one of the best coaches in Europe, and I remember him for his time with the Austria national team. It will be an interesting game.
“I think Real Madrid are favourites to win the title given the history of the competition, but their schedule is very congested, and football is full of surprises.”
The seven clubs at the tournament are Auckland City (Oceania), Al Ahly (Africa, hosts), Al-Hilal (Asia), Wydad Casablanca (Africa), Real Madrid (Europe), Flamengo (South America) and Seattle Sounders (United States, representing CONCACAF).