Auckland City's experienced squad make way to UAE for 2017 Fifa Club World Cup

Two friendly matches are planned for the Oceania champions before they face UAE league winners Al Jazira.

Auckland City defender Kim Daewook reacts after scoring with his teammates Fabrizio Tavano (R) and Clayton Lewis (L) during the Club World Cup football match between Auckland City and the Kashima Antlers in Yokohama on December 8, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Toru YAMANAKA
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Auckland City have named a vastly experienced squad for next month’s Fifa Club World Cup in the UAE.

The New Zealand side, the reigning Oceania champions, will appear at the continental tournament for a record ninth time and kick off the event on December 6 against UAE counterparts Al Jazira at Al Ain’s Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

Auckland’s squad, which set off for the Emirates on Monday, includes top goalscorer Emiliano Tade, with the Argentine poised to claim the all-time player-participation record at the Club World Cup. Tade, 29, is appearing at the event for the seventh successive year.

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Only four of Auckland’s 23-man group have never before featured at a Club World Cup, while the squad boasts five players who have represented the New Zealand national team.

Speaking before the team departed for the UAE, manager Ramon Tribulietx said: "I believe the squad we are taking has a good mixture of experience, youth, talent and physicality. We have a lot of options within this squad that we can tailor towards whatever is needed in the game and that is a very good asset to have.

"We have good alternatives on the bench regardless of the situation we could face, so we can make adjustments the way we need to.”

Auckland plan to play two friendlies before the tournament gets under way next week, with matches slated for Wednesday and Friday. Their opponents have yet to be determined.

“I expect our opponents in the friendly matches to possess very good players and be of a similar playing style to Al Jazira, so it is a good opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the way the game is played in the Middle East,” Tribulietx said.

"Matches like these push our performances to the next level, so it's a good opportunity for the team to re-experience what it means to play against sides of this calibre.”

Should Auckland defeat Jazira in their play-off, they will then take on Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds, the newly crowned Asian champions, on December 9 for a place in the semi-finals. The winner of that match will face Real Madrid four days later at Abu Dhabi's Zayed Sports City.

The Club World Cup, taking place in the UAE for the third time, runs until December 16. Mexico’s Pachuca and Moroccan side Wydad Casablanca have also been confirmed, with either Brazil’s Gremio or Argentina’s Lanus to secure the final spot. The Copa Libertadores final will be decided on Wednesday. Gremio are 1-0 up from the first leg.

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