Ceres-Negros FC will restart their 2017 AFC Cup campaign at home against the S-League powerhouse Tampines Rovers on March 7. Though historically having the edge against the Singapore Club, longtime veterans of the club agree that it is a tough test ahead for the club.
“We expect a tough game, but it’s doable for us,” said Ceres Midfielder Manny Ott. “The team is highly concentrated after a decent performance in Hanoi against a strong opponent. We have some days now to prepare here. the team is feeling good, looking god, and were excited for the home game,” the longtime Azkal added.
The Bacolod squad featured in a thrilling 1-1 draw against V.League 1 champions Hanoi FC, scoring first against the home squad and defending the rest of the way to earn a vital point. The game saw the debut of new players of the squad who will also mark their first game in home soil.
Former Kaya FC player Junior Muñoz was one of the debutantes in Hanoi and the current Azkals defender is aware of the added pressure for the first home game. “I think the chemistry, the buildup is very good. If you can see the last game versus Hanoi we had a very good result there. It’s a home game so we expect the crowd’s gonna be there backing us up so we really really have to deliver some result,” said Munoz. The game will see the home debut of foreign players Fernando Rodriguez, Manuel “Super” Herrera, and Kota Kawase. Muñoz will be joined by fellow Filipino first timers in OJ Porteria, Jason de Jong, Jorrel Aristorenas, Joshua Grommen, Luke Woodland, and Ian Ramsey.
The Busmen have been drawn to what has been considered the “group of death” of the three ASEAN Groups in the AFC Cup. Ceres Coach Risto Vidakovic has considered the difficulty of the group given that the only the top team will have the certainty to qualify for the next round. “I think for me the group is very hard. All four teams are very strong, Tampines is a former champion of Singapore, Hanoi FC is a champion, and Felda is big team in Malaysia. So for me, its the hardest group maybe of the three. It will not be easy to win at home. I hope that with the help (of the crowd) and the special motivation that the players have to play at home is very important. A full stadium is very important, maybe its the key to win the game,” said the Ceres mentor.
“The most important (objective) is to win, win the game, get three points, and have another game at home. We have to keep this team spirit we have and I think if we play as a team like we played in hanoi I think we have bigger chance to win the game,” the Ceres Coach added.
Last week, Ceres made the rounds in different areas to promote the game. It was highlighted by a mall tour and a visit to NOHS. The team also gave courtesy calls to Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. and Bacolod Mayor Evelio “Bing” Leonardia.