Ceres' star striker could miss first leg of final
Spanish striker Maranon doubtful for first leg with calf injury
|LEGHOME UNITED||CERES NEGROS|
Ceres Negros could be without their top striker Bienvenido Maranon for the first leg of the AFC Cup Asean final against Home United at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.
The 31-year-old Spaniard was rated doubtful after he received an accidental kick in the calf during a training session 10 days ago, although he rejoined team training yesterday.
Ceres head coach Risto Vidakovic, who kept a watchful eye on him during training yesterday, will make a late call before tonight's match.
Said the 48-year-old: "Maybe he can play, maybe not. We'll see how he is in training.
"It'll be a tough game against Home United."
Vidakovic will be keeping his fingers crossed that Maranon will be passed fit.
The prolific striker is the joint-second top-scorer (with Johor Darul Ta'zim's Gabriel Guerra) in this season's AFC Cup with eight goals - almost half of Ceres' total tally of 20.
He has also scored 15 goals in 47 appearances for Ceres in the top-flight Philippine Football League (PFL ) since 2015, en route to the championship title that year and a runners-up finish last year.
He is currently the PFL's second top-scorer this season with seven goals, as Ceres sit second in the domestic league table.
The Philippine side are determined to win the AFC Cup Asean final, after getting knocked out in the qualifying stages of the AFC Cup in 2015 and 2016.
Maranon insisted that he is "100 per cent fighting fit and ready" for tonight's game.
He said: "The last two years, we got kicked out very early, but I'm confident this is the year for Ceres.
"I'm happy to get a chance in the final, especially after we had such a tough time (in the semi-finals) against JDT.
"Hopefully, I can play. I really, really want to play."
But he knows the final decision lies with the coach.
If he starts the match on the bench, his compatriot Fernando Rodriguez, who has scored six goals in the AFC Cup, will have to shoulder the scoring responsibility.
Said Maranon: "Fernando has been a great partner, our communication is really good on the field because we can speak to each other in Spanish.
"If I don't score, he and the others have to score. Iain (Ramsay), Manuel (Ott), Kevin (Ingreso) are all capable, too."
Added Vidakovic: "Fernando and Bienvenido are both very experienced players and we brought them here because we know what they can give us.
"I'm hoping Bienvenido can be fit to play tomorrow."