Hà Nội FC players seen in a recent V.League 1 match. — Photo zing.vn
HÀ NỘI — The second leg of the V.League 1 season will start on Friday, with eight teams battling it out for the title and six fighting to avoid relegation.
The championship contenders include Sài Gòn FC (24 points), Viettel (22 points), Quảng Ninh Coal (21 points), Hà Nội FC, HCM City FC, Becamex Bình Dương, Hoàng Anh Gia Lai (20 points) and Hồng Lĩnh Hà Tĩnh (18 points).
Although there are eight teams, the title race is almost exclusively centred around four teams: Hà Nội, Viettel, Sài Gòn and HCM City.
While Quảng Ninh are still mathematically in the hunt, they inexplicably loaned three of their best players to Hải Phòng FC, leaving the four sides from the nation's two biggest cities to battle it out.
Hà Nội and HCM City play on Saturday and a defeat would be a severe blow for their team's title dreams.
In the last two matches, defending champions Hà Nội drew with Quảng Nam and Thanh Hóa, continuing their patchy form this season. However, the capital side have perhaps the best collection of talent in the country, making them a threat to turn any match around.
Last season, HCM City were on top at the halfway stage of the season, but Hà Nội managed to reel them in and take the title, something that may give league leader's Sài Gòn FC pause for thought.
Sài Gòn defeated Hà Nội 1-0 at Hàng Đẫy Stadium in the first half of the season and have four matches at home to round off the year, making them favourites to take the title.
Viettel also have a quality squad and being only two points behind Sài Gòn and the only team to have beaten them in the league, the other Hà Nội team must feel good about their chances.
At the other end of the table, this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic only one team will be relegated from the top-flight and replaced by the V.League 2 champions.
Out of the six teams fighting to avoid relegation, basement dwellers Quảng Nam seem most likely to face the dreaded drop. They have only nine points, four behind Nam Định and Hải Phòng directly above them.
Coach Đào Quang Hùng of Quảng Nam said his team are facing many difficulties and will make every effort to stay up, but he has acknowledged the enormity of the task ahead of them.
Meanwhile, Đà Nẵng (16 points), Thanh Hóa and Sông Lam Nghệ An (15 points) seem to be safe as with only five matches left, it would take an improbable collapse for any of them to be relegated. — VNS