HCM City striker Nguyễn Công Phượng is expected to shine in the AFC Cup match against Yangon United on Tuesday. Photo of HCM CIty FC
HÀ NỘI — HCM City FC and Than Quảng Ninh FC may be starting their AFC Cup campaigns away from home due to the novel coronavirusoutbreak, but both sides are still brimming with confidence.
Hà Nội FC, the V.League 1 and National Cup winners, were banned from AFC tournaments after they failed to register enough junior squads to compete in continental competitions, making HCM City, the National Cup runners-up, and Quảng Ninh, the V.League1’s third-placed team, the Vietnamese representatives in the AFC Cup.
HCM City today will face Yangon United, who currently second in the Myanmar National League, in Group F's opener at Thuwunna Stadium.
This year is Yangon's seventh AFC Cup, with their best result coming two years ago when they reached the ASEAN Zonal semi-final.
Meanwhile, HCM City will debut this season and their hopes have been pinned on the shoulders of national team striker and new signing Nguyễn Công Phượng, with two key foreign players Matias Jadue and Viktor Prodell left at home due to injuries.
The 25-year-old player has struggled to reach his best form since signing for the team late last after a disastrous spell with Belgium's Sint-Truidense.
HCM City have lost all four of their pre-season friendly matches and were knocked out of the AFC Champions League by Buriram United of Thailand.
The game was originally slated for Thống Nhất Stadium in HCM City but was changed to Yangon due to a Vietnamese Government ban on sporting events in February due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The change meant the Vietnamese side had only six days to prepare for the journey.
Apart from Phượng, coach Chung Hae-seong still have local famous names such as former national team midfielder Võ Huy Toàn and current national team goalie Bùi Tiến Dũng to call upon.
The other match of the group is between another debutant Hougang United of Singapore and host Lao Tayota, who are participating in their sixth edition of the AFC Cup at the National Stadium in Vientiane.
Quảng Ninh ready
Quảng Ninh face more difficulty than their fellow Vietnamese club as they are in Group G with heavyweights Ceres Negros of the Philippines, who have reached the AFC Cup knockout rounds in the last four seasons.
But their first task will be against Bali United of Indonesia at the Captain I Wayan Dipta Stadium in Bali.
Bali United are Indonesian champions and have reached the AFC Cup several times, while this is only Quảng Ninh's second appearance after their debut in 2017.
The defence is one of Bali's strengths due to the prowess of goalkeeper Nadeo Argawinata. He helped the Indonesia U23 squad finish second in the 30th Southeast Asian Games last December.
Bali also have strong foreigners and naturalised players such as Brwa Nouri, Melvin Platje, Paulo Sérgio and Willian Pacheco spread all across the pitch.
However, coach Phan Thanh Hùng of Quảng Ninh is confident in his team.
“Bali are the Indonesian champions, they are said to be at a higher level compared to us. However, Quảng Ninh are here with our strongest players and we are ready,” he said.
His key players Nghiêm Xuân Tú, Nguyễn Hải Huy and Mạc Hồng Quân can control the midfield, while their foreign stars are goal hunters, according to Bali manager Stefano Cugurra.
The Brazilian said he did not have much information on Quảng Ninh but he did know they are well organised and have quality forwards in Andre Fagan and Jeremie Lynch.
Cugurra also said Quảng Ninh’s local players have outstanding passing skills which lead to threatening attacks.
In the group's other match, Ceres Negros will host Cambodian champions Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium, Manila. VNS
Quảng Ninh players train on Sunday in Bali. Quảng Ninh will face Bali United today in their first AFC Cup match. Photo vtv.vn