It’s a quarterfinal with an atmosphere of a finale.
Two United Football League giants clash for a semifinal berth in the UFL Cup on Tuesday night at the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill.
Expected to meet in the finals, Loyola Meralco and Global FC instead tangle in a Round-of-8 matchup at 8 p.m. following the league’s last-minute decision to revert to its original knockout-stage pairings.
The top seeds are coming off resounding shutout victories in the Round of 16, with the Sparks cruising past Cimarron, 10-0, last Tuesday and Global dismantling Philippine Navy, 8-0, last Thursday.
The showdown marks Global midfielder Mark Hartmann’s first game against his former teammates, including older brother Matthew.
“We’ve got a massive game Tuesday,” said the younger Hartmann, 21, who recorded his first hat-trick for Global in the rout against the Sailors.
The matchup also features two of the league’s top strikers, with Phil Younghusband who has notched a league-leading 17 goals, spearheading the Sparks’ attack opposite Global’s Izzo El-Habib, who has seven goals to his name.
Loyola turned back Global, 2-0, in their last meeting in the League in a defining second-round game that was a major factor in Global’s relinquishing of the title to Stallion.
Another thing going against Global, featuring national team players, is that it will miss one Azkal in left winger Jeffrey Christiaens, who is out with a hamstring injury.
“We’re very short of players, but we’ll cope,” said Global coach Brian Reid, who will also be missing the services of four more key players, names the Scottish mentor decided to keep to himself.
The winner between the powerhouses faces the victor in the quarterfinal matchup between Ceres-La Salle and Green Archers United, who square off at 5 p.m.
Ceres, the reigning National Club champion representing La Salle-Bacolod, tries to solidify its reputation as the best club team outside Manila as it takes on the Archers, led by Chieffy Caligdong and Tating Pasilan.