Star striker Nguyễn Công Phượng (centre) will miss the restart of the season due to his engagement party. — Photo of VPF
HÀ NỘI — Beloved national team player Nguyễn Công Phượng will miss the match between HCM City FC and Hải Phòng when the V.League 1 restarts today after a lengthy suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While the rest of the team travelled to Lạch Tray Stadium, the striker stayed in HCM City for his engagement party with long-time girlfriend Tô Ngọc Viên Minh on Wednesday.
HCM City FC’s President Nguyễn Hữu Thắng has confirmed the star man would be absent.
Despite having to do without their star player City, who beat SHB Đà Nẵng on penalties in the National Cup last week, are still considered favourites for the match.
Hải Phòng lost 3-1 in the last 16 of the cup to V.League 2 side Đồng Tháp, putting coach Phạm Anh Tuấn firmly on the hot seat.
A day after losing, Hải Phòng President Trần Mạnh Hùng tried to hire Mai Đức Chung, head coach of the national women’s football team, to coach his team. Fortunately for Tuấn, Chung refused because he is busy developing the national team from the ongoing U19 championship.
The match against HCM City will be a chance for Tuấn to secure his position at Hải Phòng.
Without Phượng, HCM City's South Korean coach Chung Hae-seong will likely pair striker Amido Balde with super-sub Nguyễn Xuân Nam.
Nam enjoyed a blistering start to the season with five goals in three matches, including continental play his outstanding goal hunting with five goals in three matches in both local and international tournaments. He temporally leads the V.League 1 scoring table with three goals.
His performances helped HCM City lead the table after two wins, while Hải Phòng are in fifth with one win and one loss.
Their Ugandan striker Joseph Mpande, who has scored both of the team's goals, will lead from the front.
However, assistant coach Lê Quốc Vượng said Hải Phòng would not depend on the striker too much and try to stay flexible.
HCM City won both meetings with Hải Phòng last season and indeed the northern port side have only one victory in the last five matches between the two.
National team coach Park Hang-seo will be among spectators at this match which will kick off at 5pm and will be aired live on VTV6.
One hour later, Nam Định will host Viettel at Thiên Trường Stadium.
The hosts can’t compare with their visitors in term of players’ quality, as Viettel can call upon the likes of national team captain Quế Ngọc Hải, 2019 Silver Ball holder Nguyễn Trọng Hoàng and national team defender Bùi Tiến Dũng, along with last season's top scorer Bruno Cunha Cantanhede.
Nam Định meanwhile have no national team players and are led by naturalised striker Đỗ Merlo who is in his first season with the team. The Argentina-born player is one of the best foreigners in V.League and was top scorer in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2016.
Thiên Trường Stadium is always a fortress for the hosts as they welcome an average of 15,000 rowdy supporters for each home game.
Today's other match will be between Sài Gòn FC and Becamex Bình Dương, while the other eight teams are in action on Saturday. — VNS