Global Smartmatic, one of the teams that underwent a roster upgrade during the off-season, has been drawn with newcomer Stallions in the quarterfinals of the UFL-LBC Cup.
The Global-Stallions duel emerged as the marquee showdown of the last eight after the draw attended by coaches, owners and managers held Wednesday night at the Makati Sports Club.
The draw also resulted in a duel between last year’s league champion Air Force and Group C No. 2 Navy, Army against Nomads and unbeaten Union versus ManilaSudanese Club.
The quarterfinals will begin Jan. 9.
MSC was the last team to reach the quarterfinals after beating a short-handed Air Force side, 3-2, last Dec. 19.
The Airmen had little to play for having advanced as the top seed in the group after two straight victories over Pasargad and Laos.
Air Force also missed almost half of its roster, including strikers Ian Araneta and Yanti Barsales and winger Chieffy Caligdong who were playing for the national team in theAFF Suzuki Cup semifinals.
MSC was a long shot to reach the quarterfinals with just a point to show in their first two matches. But they made the most of their chances against Air Force and nipped Pasargad on goal difference to reach the knockout stage.
The Stallions boast of former national players from Iloilo, including the fleet-footed Jovanie Simpron, who has tormented teams with his pace.
It will be interesting how Global, with its beefed-up side, handles a Stallion squad teeming with talent and experience.
Philippine team skipper Aly Borromeo will lead Global, along with Misagh Bahadoran, Badrelin El-Habbib and Izzeldin El-Habbib, who emerged as the league’s top scorer last season.
Army will be in for a tough battle against Nomads, who, like MSC, made the quarterfinals after winning their last game.
In Roel Gener and Nestorio Margarse, the Armymen have a wealth of experience at midfield.
But Nomads have shown a knack for scoring when needed especially in crucial matches.
Air Force has been widely tipped to repeat its league success this season, despite the roster revamp undergone by Global and Union.
With half of its roster training with the national team, the Airmen have players who are in shape and with loads of international experience. Striker Ian Araneta, for example, started all five games for the country in the Suzuki Cup.
Navy has been considered the weakest among the teams from the Armed Forces, but could cause Air Force problems with its attack line led by Reydric Viliran.
Navy finished sixth in the league last season in a campaign highlighted by a two-game sweep of rival Army.
With an infusion of fresh talent that has combined well with some of the finest African recruits playing in the league, Union had become the latest force in the league.
Its come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Global have boosted their stock considerably. But Union proved that victory was no fluke by sweeping all of their Group D assignments.
The LBC UFL Cup Quarter- Final Draw has been made:
Sunday 9-Jan 1300 Army vs. Nomads Alabang Country Club (ACC)-A
1300 Air Force vs. Navy ACC - B
1500 Stallions vs. Global ACC - A
1500 Union vs. Manila Sudanese ACC