PREVIEW: Squad changes pep up rivalry between Auckland City and Olympic

Player departures over summer mean Auckland City and Wellington Olympic will resume their rivalry with re-arranged attacking line-ups when they meet in Saturday’s OFC Men’s Champions League play-off.

The teams — who have wrestled for the status as the country’s best for the past couple of seasons — meet at City’s Kiwitea St in the first match of a two-legged play-off series to decide who will represent New Zealand at the OFC tournament.

In a replay of November’s Men’s National League Grand Final, won 2-0 by Olympic, the sides will play over consecutive weekends to determine which club heads to Tahiti for the eight-club competition from May 11-24, 2024.

Main photo: Wellington Olympic captain Ben Mata and Auckland City’s Ryan De Vries are ready for another battle of wits when their sides meet on Saturday. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Since the grand final, both clubs have shuffled their squads, with movement of players.

Auckland City’s summer moves

Auckland City striker Oliver Colloty (20) moved to Wellington Olympic and is expected to be in the squad to face his former club.

The New Zealand U-20 international made his competitive debut for Olympic in the side’s 3-0 Charity Cup win against Chatham Cup holders Christchurch United.

READ MORE: Age group internationals sign for Wellington Olympic ahead of Charity Cup >>>>

The Navy Blues will also be without record-breaking goalscorer Emiliano Tade (36) who has signed with Northern League rivals Western Springs.

READ MORE: Auckland City striker Emiliano Tade signs for rivals Western Springs >>>>

Auckland City’s forward line is likely to be led by Angus Kilkolly who stamped his pre-season form with two goais in City’s 3-2 friendly win against Eastern Suburbs, and the experienced Ryan De Vries.

Joe Ridley … has arrived from England in time for Auckland City’s OFC Champions League campaign.

Winger Joe Lee and New Zealand U-17 international Stipe Ukich have both scored in a couple of City’s pre-season wins, while the club’s highest-profile signing has been former England youth international winger Joe Ridley (20).

Ridley came through the youth academy at English Championship club Middlesbrough, spending 10 years at the club.

READ MORE: Auckland City sign former England youth international ahead of OFC play-offs >>>>

Meanwhile, City have bolstered their defence with the signing of Vanuatu international Timothy Boulet (25). He signed last November, in time for City’s FIFA Club World Cup appearance in Saudi Arabia, but has yet to make his first competition appearance at Kiwitea St.

READ MORE: Vanuatu international defender Timothy Boulet joins Auckland City >>>>

Wellington Olympic’s summer moves

Former New Zealand international winger Joel Stevens (29), a three-cap All White, left Olympic to join Christchurch United, while last season’s Golden Boot winner, Gianni Bouzoukis, and defender Jack Cawley, have both moved to Australia.

READ MORE: Golden Boot co-winner Gianni Bouzoukis signs for Sydney club >>>>

READ MORE: Wellington Olympic defender Jack Cawley signs for Danny Hay’s Perth SC >>>>

New coach Paul Ifill has brought in some talented additions to the Olympic squad.

These include New Zealand U-20 striker Oliver Colloty (from Auckland City), national U-20 defender Adam Supyk (from Eastern Suburbs) and Jonty Roubos (from Miramar Rangers).

New Zealand U-23’s Jesse Randall taking on defenders from the China U-24 side in the friendly international in March 2023. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Other key signings include U-23 international Jesse Randall (back from a season with Charleston Battery in the United States) and Eddie Wilkinson (from Christchurch United).

Irish import Joel Coustrain (28), signed from Irish club Aisling Annacotty, scored for Olympic in their Charity Cup win, finding the net only a minute after coming off the sub’s bench for his competitive debut.

Former Wellington Phoenix and Lower Hutt City forward Kaelin Nguyen was also one of Olympic’s form players in the Charity Cup match.

Wellington Olympic’s Tor Davenport-Petersen (left) challenges Auckland City’s Cam Howieson in November’s National League grand final at Auckland’s Go Media Stadium. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

How to watch

If you can’t get to the game, you can watch it live and free on FIFA+ (see link below).

Wellington Olympic are inviting their supporters to watch the match on the big screens in their clubrooms, which will open at 1pm.


National play-offs — first leg

Game to be played on Saturday March 9, 2024

Auckland City v Wellington Olympic
Kiwitea St, Auckland, 2pm

National play-offs — second leg

Game to be played on Saturday March 16, 2024

Wellington Olympic v Auckland City
Martin Luckie Park, Wellington, 2pm

Read the match programme

Auckland City have published a match programme for this fixture. Read it online here:

Possible squads

Auckland City

Possible squad based on pre-season appearances:

1. Conor Tracey (GK)
2. Mario Ilich
3. Adam Mitchell
4. Christian Gray
5. Timothy Boulet
8. Gerard Garriga
9. Angus Kilkolly
10. Dylan Manickum
11. Ryan De Vries
12. Regont Murati
13. Nathan Lobo
14. Jordan Vale
16. Joe Lee
19. Liam Gillion
21. Adam Bell
22. Tong Zhou
23. Alfie Roger
24. Joe Wallis (GK)
25. Michael Den Heijer
26. Rayan Tayeb
27. Stipe Ukich
28. Caleb Moosbally

Head coach: Albert Riera

Wellington Olympic

Possible squad based on pre-season appearances:

1 Scott Basalaj (GK)
2 Gabriele Matanisiga
3 Adam Supyk
4 Dylan Wood
5 Justin Gulley
6 Tor Davenport Petersen
7 Jesse Randall
8 Edward Wilkinson
9 Hamish Watson
10 Oliver Colloty
11 Kallan Gould
12 Chris Kotrotsos (GK)
13 Willlam Vincent
14 Jack-Henry Sinclair
15 Ben Mata (captain))
16 Joshua Apaapa-Preston
17 Devon Thurston
18 Luke Tongue
19 Samuel Mitrakas
20 Tamupiwa Dimalro
21 Isa Prins
22 Lukas Hallklas
23 Gavin Hoy
24 Jonty Roubos
25 Joel Coustrain
26 Ollver Davies
27 Kaelin Nguyen
28 Josh Rudiand
29 Joseph Hopper
31 George Walker
41 Alex Britton (GK)
42 Matthew King (GK)

Head coach: Paul Ifill

Lead-up form

Auckland City have won three of their four pre-season games against Northern League opposition.

They lost 1-0 to Birkenhead United before beating West Coast Rovers (3-1), Eastern Suburbs (3-2) and Manurewa (2-0).

The biggest pointer to Wellington Olympic’s readiness for the OFC play-off was their 3-0 Charity Cup win against Christchurch United on March 3.

READ MORE: Wellington Olympic lift Charity Cup with 3-0 win against Christchurch United >>>>

Head-to-head: The last five meetings

Sunday December 4, 2022

Grand Final
Men’s National League

Auckland City 3 (Liam Gillion 33′, Gerard Garriga 40′, Angus Kilkolly 88′)
Wellington Olympic 2 (Tor Davenport Petersen 77′, Ben Mata 90+1′ pen)

Saturday March 11,2023

OFC Champions League qualifier
First leg

Wellington Olympic 1 (Joel Stevens 37′)
Auckland City 1 (Christian Gray 79′)

Saturday March 18, 2023

OFC Champions League qualifier
Second leg

Auckland City 5 (Liam Gilliam 23′, Emiliano Tade 74′, 77′ pen, 87′ pen, Angus Kilkolly 85′)
Wellington Olympic 3 (Ben Mata 16′ pen, Hamish Watson 28′, 62′)

Sunday November 12, 2023 

Men’s National League
Round 8

Auckland City 1 (Dylan Manickum 79′)
Wellington Olympic 3 (own goals 64′, 74′, Gianni Bouzoukis 89)

Sunday November 26, 2023

Men’s National League
Grand Final

Wellington Olympic 2 (Kailan Gould 58′, Jack-Henry Sinclair 90+5′)
Auckland City 0

READ MORE: Wellington Olympic are the new national men’s champions >>>>

Wellington Olympic … new national champions. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

What’s at stake

The winner of the play-off series will compete in Group A of the OFC Men’s Champions League, for which the draw has already been made.

READ MORE: Draw made for eight-club OFC Men’s Champions League tournament >>>>

Results at the OFC Champions League over a four-year cycle decide which club will represent Oceania at future FIFA Club World Cups, which will move to an expanded 32-team format starting in 2025.

Auckland City have already qualified for that tournament, based on results from the past three years.

The winner of this year’s OFC Champions League will automatically qualify for a new annual FIFA club competition, the FIFA Intercontinental Cup.

The first staging of the six-club tournament will be in December.

READ MORE: Pathway confirmed for New Zealand clubs in new annual FIFA competition >>>>

More football stories