Home United will not be thinking about vengeance when they meet old foes Ceres-Negros in the AFC Cup on Tuesday evening.
The two teams met last year in the AFC Cup’s inaugural ASEAN Zone final, and it was Philippines’ Ceres who emerged triumphant 3-2 on aggregate.
Six months on, they face off again at the Jalan Besar Stadium but – this time – it is top spot in Group F up for grabs after both won their opening matches of the 2018 campaign a fortnight ago.
With only the group winners guaranteed automatic qualification for the knockout round, the result of Tuesday’s clash could prove pivotal in deciding which team takes a significant step towards a semi-final berth.
Nonetheless, while it was Ceres who ended their AFC Cup dreams last season, Home defender Abdil Qaiyyim insists that defeat will not be playing on their minds.
“We are taking it like any other match we are going to play,” Abdil told FOX Sports Asia. “It’s a new game now.
“Both teams have new players so the approach is definitely different from last year.
“But we will play to our strengths and, since it’s our first home game of the season, we are going to do our best for our fans.”
While the Protectors had to grind out for a smash-and-grab 1-0 win against Shan United last time out – courtesy of Song Ui-young’s second-half winner – Ceres had a much easier time as they romped to a 9-0 rout of Boeung Ket.
With the likes of Bienvenido Maranon, Stephan Schrock and OJ Porteria offering plenty of firepower up front, Home will have to be at their best to keep the Busmen at bay.
“We are well aware of Ceres’ attacking threat,” Abdil explained.
“However, if we stick together as a unit with our defensive shape, I believe we will be able to get a positive result from the game.
“In our pre-season, we tested ourselves against top teams like Ceres so this gives us sufficient confidence and experience coming into this game.”
Plenty has also been made about the fact that clubs from the S.League – soon to be renamed as the Singapore Premier League – are only allowed to sign two foreigners this season, two less than the “3+1” quota for AFC competitions.
Still, Abdil insists that a club of Home’s stature – one of Singapore’s traditional heavyweights and former AFC Cup semi-finalists – must believe that they can go far in the competition.
“Of course, it will be good if we can reach the [ASEAN Zone] final again this year!” said the 28-year-old.
“We are going to take it one game at a time [and] playing with two less foreigners is definitely a disadvantage, as compared to the other teams in the tournament.
“But we are playing for Home United – one of the biggest clubs in Singapore football – and we will never go down without a fight.
“Our team is filled with both experienced senior players and up-and-coming youngsters – it’s a very good mix.
“If we work hard together, there’s no reason why we will not be able to achieve what we did last year.”
Catch all the AFC Cup action LIVE on FOX Sports with Steve Dawson, Rhysh Roshan Rai and John Wilkinson providing the match analysis and insights!
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 27
FOX Sports LIVE – 16:30 HKT
Yangon United v FLC Thanh Hoa – 16:50 HKT
FOX Sports LIVE – 19:00 HKT
Home United v Ceres-Negros – 19:20 HKT
Global Cebu v Bali United – 19:20 HKT (on FOX Sports 2)
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28
FOX Sports LIVE – 16:00 HKT
Song Lam Nghe An v Johor Darul Ta’zim – 16:20 HKT
FOX Sports LIVE – 19:00 HKT
Persija Jakarta v Tampines Rovers – 19:20 HKT