Ceres-Negros FC collides with Thai powerhouse Port FC in Stage 2 of of the Preliminaries in the AFC Champions league at the PAT Stadium in Bangkok on January 21.
The Philippine champions started their ACL campaign with a close 3-2 victory against familiar foes in Shan United. Robert Lopez Mendy and Bienvenido Maranon scored a goal apiece in the first half but Shan came up with their own only to be cancelled out by OJ Porteria minutes later. Jawah added another for the visitors but the Busmen did just enough to hold off the Myanmar champions.
It will be a different case on the next round when they meet Thai Port, a team who finished third in the Thai League in the previous season. After finishing just five points behind the top two teams, the Port Lions have gone all in with the acquisition of 2019 Thai League Best Foreign Player Heberty Fernandes and a few other local veterans to shore up their title bid.
The departure of attacking midfielder and national team mainstay Sumanya Purisai was dampened with the addition of centerback Tanaboon Kesarat and star striker Adisak Kraisorn. Port FC started their preseason in late November of last year to prepare for the start of their domestic league in February.
The Busmen has had some experience against in form squads in the second stage of the competition. Their famous victory over Brisbane Roar who were in mid season form set-up a Playoff matchup with world stars in Anthony Modeste, Axel Witsel, and Alexander Pato of Tianjin Quanjian.
Times have changed however as more teams are now well aware of the Busmen’s quality on the pitch especially if the opponent has the a former Ceres-Negros captain in their club.
Former skipper Martin Steuble is already with Port FC after a free transfer from mid-season last year but will not be featuring for them in the ACL qualifiers as their coach has picked Korean Go-Seul Ki as the designated Asian player.
“I think it will bea tough game because they are a really good team. They play in the best league and I think its gonna be a hard game.” Ceres-Negros Vice-Captain Bienvenido Maranon. “But I think we have to enjoy this game because we have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” he added.
The odds are stacked against Ceres-Negros but the team is ready to compete against one of the best clubs in Thailand and in the region.
Kickoff is set at 7pm local time (8PM Philippine Time). The match will be streamed live by Port FC with the link provided soon on the ceresfootball.com and Ceres-Negros FC social media pages.