Ceres La Salle will look to fly the Philippine flag high when they make their AFC Cup debut against Malaysia’s Selangor in their opening Group E encounter on Tuesday.
Coach Franklin Muescan’s men will have the advantage of kicking off their campaign on home soil, with new signings Stephan Shrock and Kevin Ingreso set to add some international experience after both arriving from German clubs.
Ceres La Salle missed out on the competition last year following defeat in the play-offs, but they’ve since gone on to win the 2015 United Football League, allowing them direct entry into the 2016 edition.
“We’re very excited about this game,” said Muescan. “It’s our first official AFC Cup game. We really prepared hard and this is our chance to prove where Philippine football is right now.”
Selangor, meanwhile, are experienced campaigners at this level, although they haven’t had much to show for their efforts in recent years.
“We want to do well in this competition, because this one of the competitions where Selangor hasn’t really gone far,” said coach Zainal Abidan Hassan.
“Every team in this group is a champion team so it’s important we stay disciplined, especially when you are playing in an away game.
“The Filipino teams are strong, fast and tactically and technically they are not far from the level in Malaysia.”
Elsewhere in Group E on Tuesday, Bangladesh Premier League champions Lt. Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club make their AFC Cup debut against S.League runners-up Tampines Rovers.
In Tuesday’s Group F action, Hong Kong champions Kitchee take Filipino side Kaya FC, while Maldivian champions New Radiant take on Bhalestier Khalsa of Singapore.
Group A sees Turkmen club Altyn Asyr FK – winners of the 2015 Turkmenistan Cup – take on Lebanese Super Cup champions Al-Ahed SC.
Al-Wehdat of Jordan also play host to Bahrain’s Al Hidd, who were AFC Cup quarter-finalists in 2014.
Last year’s finalists FC Istiklol headline Tuesday’s Group B action, taking on Al-Faisaly of Saudi Arabia.
Also in Group B, Iraq’s Naft Al-Wasat host Lebanon’s Tripoli Club.