Wellington Olympic will try to make the most of their home advantage when they face national champions Auckland City in Saturday’s first leg of their OFC Champions League play-off.
Olympic lost all three of their 2022 meetings — once at home, once on neutral turf and once at City’s Kiwitea Street.
The Wellington side will know their best chance of qualifying for the eighth and final spot in May’s OFC Champions League will be to take a lead to Auckland on March 18 when the second leg is played.
They’ve been urging their supporters to turn Wellington’s Martin Luckie Park into a sea of blue and white for the match.
Main photo: Wellington Olympic supporters … will get behind their team. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
Much is at stake for the winner of May’s tournament goes to Saudi Arabia in December for a shot at the lucrative FIFA Club World Cup.
Wellington Olympic host the first leg on March 11 after warming up with three wins at the local Hilton Petone pre-season tournament.
They have beaten the Wellington Phoenix 3rd team 4-1, Western Suburbs 3-2 and Waterside Karori 2-1 in the Petone competition.
Olympic also had a 2-2 draw in a warm-up game in Taupo against National League side Birkenhead United.
Meanwhile, Auckland City had a short break following their FIFA Club World Cup campaign in Morocco but will be ready for the two-game play-off.
They capped an intensive weeklong return to training with an 8-0 win against Northern League side Takapuna.
Newly-selected national U-23 player Joe Lee scored a hat-trick while other goals came from skipper and All Whites midfielder Cam Howieson, Liam Gillion, Takuya Iwata, Matt Ellis and an own goal.
Who to watch for
Olympic go into 2023 without three of last season’s attacking assets.
Jesse Randall (20) has headed overseas in search of a pro contract and is expected to be confirmed as a signing for United States second-tier USL Championship club Charleston Battery. He’s been named in the New Zealand U-22 squad to face China.
READ MORE: Olympic’s Jesse Randall seems set to join United States club Charleston Battery >>>>
Kailan Gould (25) has crossed the Tasman to join Preston Lions, a Melbourne club who compete in the National Premier League Victoria 2, the third tier of Australia’s league system.
Randall scored 17 goals last season, in the Central and National Leagues, while Gould chipped in with 12.
Top scorer Gianni Bouzoukis has also left, but coach Rupert Kemeys told OFC Media Olympic had signed former Wellington Phoenix striker Hamish Watson and former All White Joel Stevens who had been playing professionally in Sweden.
“We’ve also added Ryan Feutz originally from Western Suburbs who has been playing in Sweden and Oliie van Rijssel who has come from Finland to add to our attacking options,” Kemeys said.
Former China Super League professional Zhou Tong is named in the Auckland City squad and could make his debut.
The 33-year-old winger recently moved to New Zealand and has been signed by the Navy Blues.
READ MORE: Auckland City sign experienced winger from Chinese Super League club >>>>
Meanwhile, the versatile Dan Morgan (32) returns to Auckland City for his third spell at Kiwitea St, and is in the squad for Saturday’s play-off.
Since making his City debut as a 19-year-old, he left for splls with Three Kings United, Waitakere United and Birkenhead United before a second stint with the Navy Blues.
He played two seasons in South Africa for Maritzburg United before returning to New Zealand and playing most recently for East Coast Bays.
The squad has not yet been made public.
1. Conor TRACEY (GK), 3. Adam MITCHELL, 4. Christian GRAY, 5. Michael DEN HEIJER, 6. Dan MORGAN, 7. Cam HOWIESON (c), 8. Gerard GARRIGA, 9. Angus KILKOLLY, 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 11. Ryan DE VRIES, 13. Nathan LOBO, 14. Jordan VALE, 15. Aidan CAREY, 16. Joe LEE, 18. Joe WALLIS (GK), 19. Liam GILLION, 20. Emiliano TADE, 21. Tong ZHOU, 22. Adam BELL, 23. Matt ELLIS
Head coach: Albert RIERA. Assistant coach: Ivan VICELICH. Goalkeeper coach: Enaut ZUBIKARAI. Technical: Adria CASALS and Jarrod WALLACE. Logistics: Colin COOK. Physio: Matt PAYNE.
Referee: Nick Waldron. Assistants: Isaac Trevis and Gareth Sheehan. Fourth official: Calvin Berg.
Game to be played on Saturday March 11, 2023
Wellington Olympic v Auckland City
Martin Luckie Park, Wellington, 2pm (NZT)
Game to be played on Saturday March 18, 2023
Auckland City v Wellington Olympic
Kiwitea St, Sandringham, 3.30pm (NZT)
How to watch
To watch the match, follow this link on Saturday:
What’s at stake
The winner of the play-off goes up against seven clubs from Oceania at the OFC Champions League tournament to be staged in May.
READ MORE: Seven clubs confirm their places for this year’s OFC Champions League >>>>
Head-to-head: Auckland City v Wellington Olympic
Auckland City and Wellington Olympic qualify for the OFC Champions League national play-off because they are the winners and runners-up in last year’s Men’s National League.
City won the grand final between them 3-2 at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland.
Results of last three meetings
Grand Final, Men’s National League
Game played on Sunday December 4, 2022
Auckland City 3 (Liam Gillion 33′, Gerard Garriga 40′, Angus Kilkolly 88′)
Wellington Olympic 2 (Tor Davenport Petersen 77′, Ben Mata 90+1′ pen)
READ MORE: Auckland City land historic quadruple after winning five-goal Grand Final >>>>
Chatham Cup semi-final
Game played Sunday August 21, 2022
Auckland City 3 (Dylan Manickum 10′, Joe Lee 45′, Emiliano Tade 68′)
Wellington Olympic 1 (Jessie Randall 54′)
National League round one
Game played Saturday October 1, 2022
Wellington Olympic 1 (Gianni Bouzoukis 75′)
Auckland City 2 (Ryan de Vries 50′, own goal 86′)