Home get chance for revenge
Protectors host Ceres Negros in a rematch of last year's AFC Cup Asean zone final
Home United may have had a commendable 2017, but they are unlikely to forget how close they were to winning the AFC Cup Asean zone final last year.
Denying them the honour were Philippine side Ceres Negros whom they will meet again tonight in a Group F clash of this year's tournament.
|HOME UNITED||CERES NEGROS|
Much has changed at Home since they lost 3-2 to Ceres over two legs last August, though.
The Protectors have lost several key players, whereas Ceres remain largely the same side.
It appears to be a significant difference that even Ceres captain Martin Steuble acknowledges.
The Philippine international midfielder said at a pre-match conference yesterday at Copthorne King's Hotel: "Home have a bigger transition to make because they lost key players, as compared to us.
"For our side, we haven't changed much and we pretty much stayed together.
"Nonetheless, I believe that Home United are still very competitive, especially at Jalan Besar with the special surface (artificial turf)."
The departed stars formed part of Home's spine. They are Singapore's No. 1 Hassan Sunny, joint-top local scorer Faris Ramli, 38-goal Croatian striker Stipe Plazibat and captain Hariss Harun - all of whom have joined foreign clubs.
Promising youngsters Irfan Fandi (Young Lions) and Adam Swandi (Albirex Niigata) have also left.
However, Aidil Sharin's men have proven that there is no change too big for them to overcome.
They kicked off their AFC Cup campaign with a 1-0 triumph over Shan United two weeks ago, despite the latter being the favourites.
Aidil recalled: "Many people thought that Shan United were stronger than us, but that's the thing about football. Anything can happen. The boys were disciplined and worked very hard to prove themselves, especially the younger players.
"It was a good start and, hopefully, we can bring that forward to the game against Ceres."
The Philippine giants, who were runners-up in last season's Philippines Football League, thrashed Cambodia's Boeung Ket FC 9-0 in their Group F opener.
Drawing confidence from their flying start, Steuble said: "We had a very good first game and, of course, it boosted our confidence."
But Ceres coach Risto Vidakovic was more cautious.
He said: "What we did last year doesn't count any more. We have to forget it.
"This year is the start of new competitions and we have to prove ourselves because people know who we are now. We will respect every opponent and fight hard in every game ahead of us."
Aidil noted that Ceres "have players with great quality in attack", but refused to let that intimidate them.
The 40-year-old admitted that his team's attack may not be as strong as before, but his attacking philosophy remains unwavered.
He said: "If you look at the last game, even though we played away (in Myanmar), we didn't just defend.
"We will still attack and create as many chances as we can. If we want to top the group, we have to go all out and get the wins."
The Protectors will be boosted by the return of French defender Sirina Camara and Singapore international Shakir Hamzah, who were suspended for the Shan match.