Exposito: We will go to Japan with confidence
Spanish striker Manel Exposito is back for his second tilt at the FIFA Club World Cup with Oceania champions Auckland City FC.
The forward was a key performer for Auckland when they lost 2-0 to Kashiwa Reysol in 2011, and the former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid player is focused on the tournament's 6 December opener in Yokohama.
"The club won two games at this tournament three years ago and that is always our aim," Exposito told FIFA.com. "But we must focus on the Japanese champions first. After that then we see. We're going there with confidence but it’s not going to be easy."
Auckland gave a good performance in the second half of last year's meeting with Reysol, when Exposito was one of a selection of Spanish players on show.
Team-mates Angel Berlanga and Albert Riera Vidal, plus new arrival Pedro Garcia, as well as coach Ramon Tribulietx, who brought Exposito Down Under, make up a quintet of Spaniards at the club.
We're going there with confidence but it’s not going to be easy.
Spain’s involvement in the tournament this year is limited to individual players, such as Exposito and Chelsea’s Juan Mata and Fernando Torres, but the attacking midfielder is not entertaining thoughts of facing La Roja players in blue.
"Sometimes you dream about playing the likes of Chelsea or, in last year’s case, Barcelona," said the Spaniard.
"But to be honest, we need to be realistic and focus on the first match because we are underdogs even in that game and the J.League champions will be very tough. Winning that game is our only focus now."
The club from New Zealand's largest metropolis qualified for their fourth FIFA Club World Cup with a 3-1 aggregate victory over Tahiti's AS Tefana in the OFC O-League final last May.
The Spaniard says lessons have been learned from last year's experiences in Japan, but he insists the style City play remains intact. "We play possession football with a good tempo and attack at the right times. Defensively we are very solid," said Exposito, whose six goals proved enough to be crowned the OFC O-League's top goalscorer.
High quality competition The forward was honest in his appraisal that European champions Chelsea are the favourites to lift the trophy on 16 December.
"Chelsea are the best team. The UEFA Champions League is the greatest continental club competition in the world and for that you have to say Chelsea," said the man known as Xino.
"It would be unbelievable to play Chelsea, who have Mata from Spain, but also Roberto Di Matteo, who is an amazing coach. It would be a dream to play them but this is a very difficult assignment - for us, everything depends on our game with the J.League winners."
Auckland’s top goalscorer was forthright with his opinion on which team is most likely to challenge Chelsea for the FIFA Club World Cup – Corinthians of Brazil.
Exposito said: "Corinthians are a typical Brazilian team, very technical with the ball and very good. They have won the Copa Libertadores for a good reason.
“Perhaps the biggest difference in their style to, say, Spanish football, is that the ball speed is maybe not as quick and the build-up play slower.
"The South Americans will be more skilful in one against one situations. You have to be very fit and press teams like Corinthians.”