|Hồng Lĩnh Hà Tĩnh training for their last match of the season. They know a win against Thanh Hóa will guarantee they stay up. Photo of Hồng Lĩnh Hà Tĩnh FC|
HÀ NỘI — As the last day of the V.League 1 season rolls around Sài Gòn FC will need more than just a pinch of luck if they are to stay up, though even that may not solve the financial difficulties threatening to engulf the club.
The side from the south have been rooted to the bottom of the table for most of the season and have 19 points. They will play Becamex Bình Dương at Thống Nhất Stadium in HCM City.
Two points above them are Hà Tĩnh with 21 points. They will play Thanh Hóa at home.
To stay up, Sài Gòn need a win for themselves and a loss for Hà Tĩnh to leapfrog them on the final day of the season.
The odds are against them though; Hà Tĩnh have been buoyed by the return of two of their stars, Nguyễn Xuân Hùng and Ngô Xuân Toàn, from injury.
"We are in a good mood preparing for the match. We encourage and support each other, doing everything for a winning result this Saturday," said coach assistant Nguyễn Công Mạnh of Hà Tĩnh.
"Some key players were rested in the previous match to save their energy for the important coming one. Therefore, they will be in peak performance against Thanh Hóa."
"We will not care about the result of Sài Gòn and Bình Dương. We will decide our fate ourselves with a win. We will be focused and make use of any opportunity.
"I am confident that Hà Tĩnh will 100 per cent stay up," he said.
Talking about the match, captain Trần Phi Sơn said his team played with 200 per cent of their ability in recent games despite injuries. The match against Thanh Hóa would be the most important one, so they would fight like warriors to avoid relegation.
Hà Tĩnh supporters will be given free tickets to encourage the team.
Almost 8,000 tickets will be distributed before the match. The organisers also plan to hire up to 30 buses to transport home supporters to Hà Tĩnh Stadium.
Sài Gòn, meanwhile, face more than just threat of relagation.
Stars Rodrigue Nanitelamino and Olsen Nicholas John refused to play in the previous match as they have not received bonuses as promised in the contracts, and it is not clear if they will turn out for the southern side in their decisive game.
They will be without talented midfielder Cao Văn Triền, who received three bookings.
Meanwhile, striker Đỗ Merlo is a doubt due to the same leg injury that kept him out last weekend.
|Sài Gòn players will do their all to stay up, but it might not be enough. — Photo courtesy of Sài Gòn FC|
The shortage of players is only part of the problem.
Newspapers have reported that Sài Gòn might go under after the last round, a scenario that surely only becomes more likely if they are relegated.
Head coach Phùng Thanh Phương said he had not heard anything but said he regretted it if it was true.
Many players are planning to move and their agents are contacting clubs.
"We are united to play the last match. It is for our honour and supporters," said Phương.
"I hope my players will find new clubs and continue playing football."
Captain Triền said he has heard the gossip about financial troubles.
"I have been playing for Sài Gòn for years and considering it my second home. I expected I would end my career here," said Triền.
"The news was unexpected. If the boss meets with difficulty, the team will stop working. But, we are professional players; we will play our best this last game," he said.
Sài Gòn still have a chance to stay with the V.League 1 if they win against Bình Dương, but they need Hà Tĩnh to lose to Thanh Hóa.
All last-round matches will be held at the same time, at 5 pm.
Hà Nội, who have already won the championship, will visit Hoàng Anh Gia Lai in Pleiku, while Topenland Bình Định will host HCM City.
Sông Lam Nghệ An will entertain Nam Định, who will welcome two new players - national goalkeeper Trần Nguyên Mạnh and midfielder Hồ Khắc Ngọc - for the next three years.
SHB Đà Nẵng will travel to Hà Nội to face Viettel, whose Brazilian striker Pedro Paulo will leave as his contract expires.
Hải Phòng are guaranteed second place and have played all their games, though it has been announced they will not have Rimario Gordon and Moses Oloya next season.
Jamaican Gordon netted 17 goals in 22 matches and is the top scorer this year. Ugandan Moses played a key role in Hải Phòng's 23 matches. He played every game, bar one when he was injured.
The pair could not agree on terms with Hải Phòng and decided to leave. VNS