Philippines Football League champion Ceres-Negros buckles down to work as it braces for a stiff challenge from Myanmar’s Shan United in their preliminary stage clash in the AFC Champions League on Jan. 14 at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The Busmen report back to training under coach Risto Vidakovic this week following a trophy-laden campaign last season.
“It’s important for us to start the season strong,” said club administrator Nicolas Golez. “A great result to start the year can set the tone for us and lay the foundation for a really successful campaign.”
A couple of newcomers in Mark Hartmann and Pika Minegishi and returnees Arnie Pasinabo and Josh Grommen are all looking to make an impact as the club aims for more trophies this year.
Back to fuel the Busmen’s drive are AFC Cup top scorer Bienvenido Maranon and Southeast Asian Best XI awardee Stephan Schrock, who is coming off his finest season yet. Super Herrera and goalkeeper Roland Muller are also returning, providing experience in defense.
Mid-season signings last season, James Younghusband, Robert Mendy and Takashi Odawara have also proven their worth with strong performances last year.
Mike Ott, OJ Porteria, Jeff Christiaens, Junior Munoz, Dennis Villanueva, Sean Kane, Angelo Marasigan, Dylan De Bruycker, Tristan Robles, Ron Bayan and Jun Badelic are also expected to step up for the Busmen.
The season starts with the duel against Shan, a team that Ceres has beaten twice in the AFC Cup last year and on penalties in the AFC Champions League preliminary round two years ago in Yangon.
The Busmen aren’t taking the Myanmar League champions lightly as they look to progress further in the continent’s most prestigious club competition following an early exit last year.
“We have experience playing against Shan United. It’s a dangerous team so we really have to prepare for them,” Golez added.