Auckland City can secure a spot in the Grand Final of the Men’s National League with victory against winless Petone on Saturday.
Three points would even allow City to rest and rotate players in their two remaining fixtures.
But head coach Albert Riera says he won’t underestimate Petone who gave Central League champions Wellington Olympic a tough time in last week’s 2-1 win to the Greeks.
“I think we are in a fantastic situation right now, something the lads have been working so hard for, to have in our hands to be in the final with two games to spare. It’s massive, however, it’s not done yet,” Riera told his club’s website.
“We are going to have to fight a lot, play very good football away from home, obviously going to Wellington against a team that I’ve watched their every game. They are a very, very good team.
“We never take any game for granted; we are not going to look at the table.”
While Auckland City will be trying to secure their final berth in Lower Hutt, Wellington Olympic will be hosting Christchurch United at Martin Luckie Park, 20kms away.
The winners of that game will become immediate favourites to go to the final which NZ Football have confirmed will be held at Auckland’s Go Media Stadium Mt Smart on Sunday November 26 (1pm).
Olympic will be without striker Hamish Watson, who is serving a one-week suspension for last week’s red card.
In other games, Manurewa will be gunning for their fourth win in a row after rising from bottom of the table to fourth.
The Rewa team have been running hot and their visit to Eastern Suburbs’ Madills Farm will be a decent test for both sides.
Cashmere Technical and Napier City Rovers meet in a match where the result has no consequence but provides an excellent opportunity to help develop young players.
Auckland United host the Wellington Phoenix Reserves in a fixture that will no doubt see both sides striving to hold possession and build from the back.
Players to watch
Two of the competition’s leading goalscorers are on the verge of milestones.
Wellington Olympic’s Gianni Bouzoukis (25) has scored 99 goals in his 124 games for the club, putting him third on the all-time list of scorers.
He is shooting for back-to-back Golden Boots, having shared it last season with Cashmere Technical’s Garbhan Coughlan, and leads this year’s table with six goals from six rounds.
Chasing him is Auckland City’s Angus Kilkolly (27), who has five goals, but who sits on 49 career goals for the Navy Blues.
Wellington Olympic’s hosting of Christchurch United promises to be a belter and potentially critical in deciding Grand Final participation. United have travelled well this season, and I can see them pulling off another away win with a 2-1 triumph here.
— Logan Smith
With the home advantage, Olympic will be slight favourites and I’m picking them to come away with a narrow win which would see them put one foot in the Grand Final at the end of the month.
— Luke Austin
There’s nothing like momentum in football and Manurewa are on a roll, with three good wins in a row.
Despite their winning form, and the poor record of Eastern Suburbs (one win from six rounds), the Lilywhites are considered favourites for the match.
As an indicator, the TAB rates Suburbs as $1.91 chances, compared to underdogs Manurewa who are priced at $3.60.
I think Manurewa will throw everything at Suburbs and pinch the win.
— Jack Sharp
Games to be played on Saturday November 4, 2023
Wellington Olympic v Christchurch United
Martin Luckie Park, Berhampore, 2pm
Petone v Auckland City
Petone Memorial Park, Lower Hutt, 2.30pm
Games to be played on Sunday November 5, 2023
Cashmere Technical v Napier City Rovers
Nga Puna Wai, Christchurch, 2pm
Eastern Suburbs v Manurewa
Madills Farm, St Heliers, 2pm
Auckland United v Wellington Phoenix Reserves
Keith Hay Park, Mt Roskill, 3pm