|Uphill task: Hoang Anh Gia Lai leave the field after losing to Quang Ninh Coal. They are struggling to avoid relegation from V.League 1. — VNS Photo Tuan Tu
HA NOI (VNS)— A big loss recently to Quang Ninh Coal in the V.League 1 gave Hoang Anh Gia Lai's coaching board something to worry about, though they still believe they have a chance to remain in the national premier league.
One of the reasons is the team's favourable schedule in the last seven rounds, which includes their hosting Can Tho in the 20th round this weekend at home in Pleiku City.
"The defeat made our players very sad, but none of them have become pessimistic. They all have shown their determination," said Nguyen Tan Anh, a member of the Hoang Anh Gia Lai FC management.
"The loss pushed us closer to the relegation, but we will never say die. We will play matches for our survival ahead. And first of all, we have to win over Can Tho to keep our hopes alive," Anh said.
This weekend, Hoang Anh Gia Lai will have no first-choice goalkeeper because Pham Van Tien received a red card on Wednesday.
Their best midfielder, Bui Tien Dung, will also be absent because of being issued two yellow cards.
Anh, however, still thinks positively, saying that coach Guillaume Graechen will have suitable plans and, of course, Hoang Anh Gia Lai will continue with its style of attacking and never play defensively.
Graechen said he has no qualified foreign players this season and his defenders need to improve, causing the entire team to perform poorly. Also, the weakness of the defence has strongly affected the spirit of the forwards.
The Frenchman added that from now on, his players will have focus during every game, playing at 200 per cent of their capacity. They have to save themselves when there is an opportunity.
He added that the gap between teams at the bottom is small, so a win would change many things and they need to have special plans and careful preparations.
In the first leg, Hoang Anh Gia Lai lost 1-3 to Can Tho.
Another match in the round that will lure fans will be a meet between two former winners, Ha Noi T&T and Song Lam Nghe An, at Hang Day Stadium.
Ha Noi T&T are at their best, as they won every prize in July and were recognised as the most outstanding team of the month.
The V.League 1 side was voted best club, with four wins and one draw, leading to 18 goals. They have climbed to No 5 on the ranking table.
Phan Thanh Hung was named best coach, while national midfielder Nguyen Van Quyet was the best player, scoring seven goals.
Ha Noi T&T are at home facing a team that they have never defeated in the club's history.
Despite being visitors, Song Lam Nghe An will be supported by 7,000 fans who pledged to turn the stadium yellow, the colour of the club's uniform.
The two sides have met 13 times, with Ha Noi T&T drawing 10 and losing three.
In the first leg, defending champions Becamex Binh Duong will play Dong Tam Long An, who they defeated three days ago at the National Cup's semi-finals.
Meanwhile, Coach Ngo Quang Sang of Dong Tam Long An said his team has targeted earning at least one point from this match.
Elsewhere, FLC Thanh Hoa will entertain Quang Ninh Coal, who is one of the Cup's two finalists; Hai Phong will see Dong Nai; Sanna Khanh Hoa will host Dong Thap; and SHB Da Nang will travel to Quang Nam. — VNS