By Cedelf Tupas
Cranking up its preparation for the AFF Suzuki Cup next month, a shorthanded Philippines faces Nepal on Friday at Al Ahli Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
It will mark the second time the two countries are playing against each other this year with the Azkals seeking a repeat of their 3-0 drubbing of the Nepalese side last April.
Kickoff is at 7:40 p.m. (12:40 a.m. Saturday in Manila) with the Azkals hoping to buck the absence of several key players who were not released by UFL club Ceres La Salle.
Midfielders Jerry Lucena, Paul Mulders and Martin Steuble are returning to the side but the Azkals will miss Ceres aces Patrick Reichelt, Jeffrey Christiaens, Manny Ott and Juani Guirado as well as Jason de Jong, who quit the national side last week.
Still, the Azkals have plenty of firepower up front with Mark Hartmann, who fired four goals in the 5-0 win over Papua New Guinea this month, partnering with Phil Younghusband.
Alvaro Silva, the touted Fil-Spanish defender, has also linked up with the team in Doha, but remains unlikely to suit up against the Nepalese as he has yet to secure his Filipino passport. Amani Aguinaldo and Rob Gier are expected to pair up at central defense, with Daisuke Sato and Simone Rota occupying the leftback and rightback positions, respectively.
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