Football: Auckland City embracing underdog tag before Club World Cup opener against Ah Aly

Auckland City FC aren't used to being underdogs, but the Kiwi outfit are embracing the tag at the Football Club World Cup in Morrocco.

The regular domestic winners qualified for the tournament, after claiming their 10th Oceania Champions League title, with a dominant 3-0 victory over Tahiti club Venus in the final.

But they face stiff competition in the form of African giants Ah Ahly on Thursday (NZ time), if they are to progress past the first round.

If they manage to pull off the upset, a match-up against US side Seattle Sounders awaits them, with the winners playing powerhouses Real Madrid of Spain.

Standing in their way are the CAF Champions League finalists, whom Auckland City haven't played since the 2006 tournament, where they lost 2-0 in Japan.

Auckland have prepared for the playoff in California with several friendly matches, including a 1-1 draw with FC Barcelona B.

Coach Albert Riera believes the matches put them in good stead to play the big-spending Egyptians, in a match the usual favourites are thriving as darkhorses.

"We're extremely lucky and honoured and pleased," he said. "Barcelona B were in the middle of their season and, like Al Ahly, they were very fit, very sharp, so without that we wouldn't have any chance to compete with Al Ahly, but our preparation has been spot on.

"Al Ahly are a huge club with massive players, not only in Egypt, but Africa as well and the crowd are going to push a lot for them, so there's a lot of pressure they're carrying on their shoulders. 

"It's an extra element to take into account and we're comfortable not being the favourite at that time, and we're going in to be the underdog.

"This squad of players have shown how flexible they can be and how well they can adapt to every circumstance. 

"I think we give Al Ahly the label of favourites, but behind closed doors, we aren't going to behave like underdogs.

"We have to be humble and believe in our gameplan and what we can do, and hopefully have a good game."

Riera is pleased with his side's preparation, which also included narrow defeats to Spaniards Reus FC and Korean champions Jeonbuk Motors.

He hope their performance will be the culmination of the work they put in behind the scenes last season, which saw them claim four titles.

"We are very excited," Riera said. "I think the players and everyone at the club have worked extremely hard, but you always need the results, otherwise it's all in vain.

"I thought the players did fantastic last season and the results speak for themselves. To achieve four titles last season was unique for the club.

"We put in a lot of work behind the scenes and have a hard-working group of people that works very hard behind the scenes.

"Time has gone quickly and we're almost there for our biggest game, which is tomorrow, so we're all very confident, happy and ready to go."