HCM CITY — The top three teams in the V-League will have the opportunity to put daylight between them and the chasing pack after their ninth round matches this weekend in which they are clear favourites.
Leaders Ha Noi T&T (17 points) take on Dong Thap, which faces relegation, at the Hang Day Stadium in the capital.
Last season Dong Thap finished fifth, but the team has been considerably weakened by the departure of goalkeeper Bui Tan Truong, striker Samson Kayode, and coach Pham Cong Loc.
After some good results, thanks to brilliant performances by Nigerian striker Felix Gbenga Ajala, Dong Thap have been sliding down the table in recent weeks, earning just one point from their last three games.
"Our goal is to stay in the V-League," Dong Thap coach Trang Van Thanh said.
With home advantage and a strong squad, Ha Noi T&T are likely to get full points and remain top.
Second-placed Sai Gon FC, who are on 16 points – just one adrift of the leaders – face a tougher task at home.
Coach of the Month Lu Dinh Tuan's team face Ha Noi FC, who are experiencing a renaissance after a poor start due mainly to their deadly strikers Timothy Anjembe and Le Cong Vinh.
Anjembe is the top marksman in the league with eight goals, while Vinh scored four in his last three matches.
But Sai Gon FC, who have been playing with fluency and coherence in the midfield and front thanks to their naturalised Brazilian and Cameroon players, have an edge over the visitors.
Naturalised players Huynh Kesley Alves and Nguyen Rogerio, and Anotonio Carlos, who have been playing in Viet Nam for nearly a decade, jell well despite having come together only this season.
Cameroonian Nsi Amougou has scored five goals.
"Every time Sai Gon FC play with two naturalised and three foreign players, they are a very strong team and tomorrow's game will be very difficult for [us]," Vinh admitted to Viet Nam News.
"When playing away against a strong team, one point is precious," the international striker said.
Vinh scored two and had two assists in last week's game against Thanh Hoa.
Of the top teams, third-placed SHB Da Nang – at 15, two points behind the leaders – probably have the easiest task this weekend.
A win for Le Huynh Duc's team over relegation-threatened Kien Giang, whose last win was in the second round, looks very much on the cards.
In other matches, fourth-placed Hoang Anh Gia Lai (13 points) and Binh Duong are favourites against Khanh Hoa and Ninh Binh.
Strugglers Thanh Hoa and Vicem Hai Phong will battle to climb above the relegation zone while Song Lam Nghe An and Navibank Sai Gon play on Monday. — VNS