Ceres seeks AFC quarterfinal berth vs China

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star

Match tonight (Panaad Park and Stadium, Bacolod City)

7:30 p.m. – Ceres La Salle Fc vs South China AA

MANILA, Philippines - History-chasing Ceres La Salle FC braces for its toughest test yet as it battles Hong Kong power South China AA in a make-or-break encounter for a quarterfinal berth in the Asian Football Confederation Cup tonight.

Ceres coach Frank Muescan said the Busmen need to raise their level of play in the 7:30 p.m. match at Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod City to stand a good chance of progressing, hoping to make the most of its home ground edge to achieve the result they want.

“South China is a big opponent and probably the best team we will be playing against in the history of the club. But we are the home side and we want to use this advantage,” Muescan said.

“If you’re playing a very organized team like South China, the level is very high. We want to grab the opportunity to play in this level. We will try to be competitive as well. But we know South China have speed in attack, they’re very sharp, very fluid and they know control the tempo. It’s up to us to raise our level,” he added.

The Busmen posted an unbeaten record of three wins and three draws in the group stage en route to topping Group E and clinching a milestone stint in the Round of 16. The group win also assured Ceres of home ground advantage against South China from Group G.

South China, which boasts of veteran players led by HK national mainstay Chan Siu Ki, is riding the crest of a three-game streak.  The side reached the quarterfinals last year, sweeping Phl club Global FC in the group stage along the way.

“We’re taking a cautious approach to the game. We already scouted them (South China) the past two weeks and now it’s all about coming to the game with a strong heart, strong mind and good motivation, which is very vital to take the win,” said Muescan.

“South China is an established club and playing against them will be a great experience. It’s hard to pinpoint any weakness on South China, but from our end, we want to show that we have good team spirit and we believe in the quality and capacity of our players,” he added.

Health issues hobbled Ceres recently with the likes of Adrian Gallardo, Stephan Shrock, Jeffrey Christaens, and Martin Steuble hampered by injuries but there’s a possibility they may see action.

“We had a lot of injured players in the group stage. It’s good that at this stage everyone can play and contribute to the team,” said Muescan.

South China coach Jose Ricardo Rambo, for his part, said they need to play smart to hurdle Ceres.

“We will put all the effort to win the match,” he said. “We know we will be playing a compact team which is also very hardworking with some quality play. Our target if we want to win and we have to play very smart.”

The other Philippine club in the Round-of-16, Kaya FC, will see action tomorrow against unbeaten defending champion Johor Darul Taz’im over in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.


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