Felda face stormy time

New Straits Times - - Sport -

IMAG­INE tak­ing on a Filipino side con­sist­ing only of her­itage play­ers and for­eign sign­ings in their start­ing line-up?

A Malaysia club los­ing to a Filipino team is unimag­in­able but it could hap­pen to­day when Ceres Ne­gros FC hosts last year’s Su­per League run­ners-up Felda United in an AFC Cup Group G match in Ba­colod City to­day.

Ceres, who lead the group with four points, are brim­ming with con­fi­dence for the match fol­low­ing the 5-0 thrash­ing of Sin­ga­pore’s Tampines Rovers at home last week.

Felda have only a point af­ter two matches and they des­per­ately need to avoid de­feat to­day to keep their hope alive in the com­pe­ti­tion.

Coach B. Sathi­anathan will have to reshuf­fle his de­fence as Le­banon cen­tre-back Mootaz Jounaidi had failed to ob­tain a visa to travel for the match.

Felda have won once and drawn thrice since Sathi­anathan’s first game as coach on Feb 25.

Felda have im­proved in some as­pects un­der Sathi­anathan but they need to start win­ning against big teams in or­der to gain mo­ti­va­tion. The match to­day of­fers them the chance to get their sea­son back on track.

Felda are well-rested as they have not played since the 1-1 draw with Hanoi last Tues­day.

“Mootaz did not get his visa while winger Wan Zack Haikal Wan Noor and right-back Hasni Zaidi Jamian are in­jured.

“The short break af­ter the match against Hanoi gave me the op­por­tu­nity to work with the team in terms of fit­ness and strat­egy. They re­sponded well and I am quite happy with the progress,” Sathi­anathan said yes­ter­day.

He fore­sees a tough game and con­ceded that a draw to­day will be a bonus.

“There are only four Philip­pine-born play­ers reg­is­tered with Ceres but none are reg­u­lars. The oth­ers are her­itage and for­eign­ers.

“Ceres showed that Filipino foot­ball has im­proved when they thrashed Tampines 5-0 last week. They play the 4-3-3 sys­tem, and look very organised and solid.

“They have good in­di­vid­ual play­ers in Mu­nich-born mid­fielder Manuel Ott and Span­ish for­ward Fer­nando Ro­driguez. I rate them as the best team in the group.”

Sathi­anathan re­minded his play­ers to be tac­ti­cally disciplined. “I told them that it a tough game and that they must work hard. A point will be a good re­sult.

“Our chance of mak­ing the next round is still there as we have two matches left at home.”

Ceres coach Risto Vi­dakovic

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