HCM CITY (VNS) — Dong Nai coach Tran Binh Su rates Thanh Hoa higher than his own team and admires what the north-central team have achieved so far this season. That does not prevent him from planning an ambush in their 12th round V-League match today at Bien Hoa.
"Thanh Hoa are a good team in many ways. They splurged on some good players and are coached by an experienced coach, who always keeps his players' feet on the ground regardless of their great success so far," he told Viet Nam News after a training session yesterday.
Thanh Hoa will be under great pressure since they travel to Dong Nai, who have been going through a very successful phase of late, winning four of their last five games and drawing the other.
Thanh Hoa are unbeaten this season, winning seven and drawing two – some teams have played fewer matches because of continental tournaments – but to maintain that record against Dong Nai will be a tough task.
There is reason for Su to be confident: Thanh Hoa are not so formidable away.
In their four away matches so far they scored narrow wins over Nghe An and An Giang and drew at Hai Phong and Hoang Anh Gia Lai. All four were average teams.
Su said: "Thanh Hoa possess quality players in all areas. Dutch defender Danny van Bakel and playmaker Nastja Ceh are playing very well while local players have done their part perfectly.
"We cannot say anything before the ball rolls. Dong Nai are playing in front of home supporters, and we can spring a surprise."
Thanh Hoa are three points ahead of high-flying Becamex Binh Duong, who too have scored four wins in a row.
After Thanh Hoa's dominance in the first part of the season – partly due to Binh Duong's slow start and Ha Noi T&T's modified schedule to play in the AFC Cup – the 13-team V-League has become a three-horse race of late with the return of the two clubs.
Binh Duong seem to have brightest prospects in many years to win the title they last won in 2008, and their visit to Hai Phong today looks promising.
Hai Phong showed character last weekend by holding Hoang Anh Gia Lai 1-1 despite playing with one man less, but only their most ardent fans will believe their beloved team are in the same class as Binh Duong.
Defending champions Ha Noi T&T, who are currently fifth with 15 points after playing only seven matches, will visit bottom-placed Hung Vuong An Giang on Monday.
"Thanh Hoa, Binh Duong, and T&T will be the only three teams in the race for the title this year, with [one of] the two latter teams being the most likely winner," Su, who guided Binh Duong to second place in 2003, said.
In another match today newly-promoted and eighth-placed Quang Nam will host stuttering SHB Da Nang. The visitors have alternated between wins and losses in their last four matches and are languishing in 10th place with just 12 points.
Tomorrow ninth-ranked Song Lam Nghe An are expected to return to their winning ways at home against strugglers Dong Tam Long An, who are second from bottom. — VNS