Ceres will play its first AFC Cup home match against a familiar foe in Sinagapore’s Tampines Rovers. This will be the fifth match of both clubs in the last twelve months after meeting four times in last year’s AFC Cup and RHB Singapore Cup.
Although some familiarity is in place, the two rivals will parade a different set of players in the game. Gone are the likes of Jordan Webb, Hafiz Sujad, and Jermaine Pennant for Tampines and in place are Singaporean vets Daniel Bennet, Khairul Amri, Madhu Mohana. Tampines will also be parading Croatian Ivan Djoni, a former U17 World Cup player, who once tried out for Man City and Japanese winger Ryutaro Megumi who previously showed some flair against Global FC. Former NCAA player Raspreet Sandhu from Sonoma State will and former Ceres utility man Yong Chan Son will complete the foreign player roster for Tampines.
Ceres has also added a new set of foreign players with Spanish Players Manuel “Super” Herrera, Fernando Rodriguez, and Japanese player Kota Kawase. Bienvenido Maranon stays on to complete the cast. The Bacolod squad still have the Filipino core of Martin Steuble, Manny Ott, Carli de Murga, Arnie Pasinabo. Ed Sacapano, Mike Casas, Jeffrey Christaens, and Patrick Reichelt. Veterans such as Junior Munoz, OJ Porteria, Roland Muller are some of the few players that have complimented the team.
The Bacolod squad came off a hard earned 1-1 draw against a powerhouse Hanoi FC in Vietnam while Tampines scored the first three oints in Group G with a 2-1 home win agains Malaysia’s Felda United. The S-League runners-up already started their league campaign with a hotly contested match with Albirex Niigata where they lost 2-1. Albirex has won previously against Ceres in a pre-season friendly with a 2-0 scoreline. Tampines got back into form with a 2-1 win against Hougang United last thursday.
The Negros squad is fully aware of the challenge Tampines brings and is keen to take maximum points from the game. “Of course (with) the experience playing with them last year, I think they’re a very good team,” said Ceres Co-Captain Michael Casas. “Our expectation is always to win. Everytime we are in Bacolod or in Panaad. Of course the fans the crowd is always with us so everyone is really proud to win always in Bacolod. Kag siyempre sa Bacolod, hometown ta te amo gid na eh, daugon gid na namon. (And of course Bacolod is our hometown so we have to win it),” the Ceres Keeper added.
Ceres Coach Risto Vidakovic has been very consistent on what he wants from his players. “(The) expectation is always the same. I expect the players give 100 percent in the game. That’s the only we how we can win the game.If we fight the whole of 90 minutes I think we have a lot of possibilities to win the game,” said the Serbian-born Spanish Coach.
Tampines currently leads the Group with 3 points followed by Ceres and Hanoi with one point apiece. With the revised format of the tournament, each group stage match is crucial as only the group winner is assured of next round qualification. The match will start at 7:00pm at the Pana-ad stadium and tentatively will be shown live over Fox Sports.