Friday, 16 October 2009 2:40 PM

"O" League Preview

The quest to become Oceania's top football club begins on Saturday when the Match Day 1 of 2010 O-League kicks off.

Tomorrow's action will see Auckland City FC host AS Manu Ura, at Kiwitea Street while Hekari United FC play away to Tafea FC in Port Vila.

On Sunday, Marist FC will welcome Lautoka to Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara before Waitakere United travel to Noumea for their clash against AS Magenta next Saturday 24 October.

Auckland City FC will be hungry for a first-up win against AS Manu Ura as they look to defend their 2009 title. Paul Posa's side has been through an intensive pre-season programme in preparation for the Oceania competition as well as the New Zealand Football Championship which also kicks off this month and the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009 where they will play Al Ahli FCD on 9 December.

The Tahitians are expected to put up a strong challenge against Auckland after showing impressive form during their domestic league as well as the Coupe de Polynésie - French Polynesia's premier knock-out competition - which they won earlier this year. The last time the two teams met was in March last year during the 2008 O-League when it finished 1-0 to Auckland City FC.

Returning after a year's absence are Vanuatu representatives Tafea FC, who will find a tough challenge in Hekari United FC. Tafea won through to the 2010 edition after defeating Vaum United 4-1 in their domestic decider with goals to national team stars Francois Sakama, Jean Nako Naprapol and Geoffrey Gete. The team will need to call on their national ranks as they face a determined Hekari side who last year came within a whisker of reaching the 2009 O-League final.

Marist FC are likely to have the support of around 10,000 at Lawson Tama Stadium as they get their campaign underway against Fiji champions Lautoka on Sunday. The Solomon Island club's only other appearance in the O-League was during the inaugural 2007 season when they finished a disappointing fifth.

Meanwhile, Fiji has only ever been represented by Ba in the competition but a shift in the balance of power saw Lautoka finish top of the table in the first round of the 2009 National Soccer League to qualify for their maiden O-League.

AS Magenta has never appeared in the O-League but did reach the final of the previous incarnation of the Oceania competition in 2005. The New Caledonians will have crucial home advantage in their opening encounter against Waitakere United and will look to national striker, Pierre Wajoka to lead from the front.

With a new head coach, Neil Emblen, Waitakere will be eager to repeat their form of 2007 and 2008 when they earned back-to-back O-League titles and performed credibly on the world stage at the FIFA Club World Cup.

Source: Oceania Football Confederation Press Release