It doesn’t get any bigger than this.
United Football League heavyweights Ceres-La Salle and Global dispute the first trophy of the season when they battle in the 2016 UFL Cup finals on Saturday night at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Kickoff is at 8:15 p.m. with both sides expected to go all-out with a slot to next year’s AFC Cup at stake.
Kaya clashes with Stallion at 5:15 p.m. for third place, while JP Voltes battles Loyola Meralco in the earlier match at 2:15 p.m. in the plate finals for teams that were eliminated in the quarterfinals.
“The motivation is that we want to beat the team which we consider our biggest rival,” said Global coach Leigh Manson at the prematch press conference Friday at the league office.
“It’s going to be a toe-to-toe battle, but there’s going to be momentum and how a team works on that momentum,” said Ceres-La Salle coach Frank Muescan.
Ceres-La Salle booked a return trip to the finals after nipping Kaya, 8-7, on penalties last April 9.
The Bacolod side then stunned Tampines Rovers of Singapore, 2-1, at home Panaad Stadium last Tuesday to take top spot in its AFC Cup Group.
And Muescan expressed concern over the fitness of his players with matches coming thick and fast.
“Our schedule has been tight, but we’re doing well, so we just have to continue. We have a positive outlook,” said Muescan.
Suspended in last year’s UFL Cup due to a player eligibility issue, Global started the season brightly with a strong performance in the group stage where it beat Ceres, 2-1. That has been Ceres’ only loss so far this season.
“The games between Global and Ceres have always been close,” Manson said. “But we’re confident that we can give Ceres a good game and I’ve always believed in my players.”
Global striker Omid Nazari returns from a one-game suspension, giving Manson another option on attack. Manson used Milad Behgandom on Nazari’s position in the 2-0 win over Stallion in the semifinals.
Global skipper Misagh Bahadoran is pumped up to face some of his teammates in the national team like Stephan Schrock, Manny Ott and Martin Steuble who form the backbone of the Ceres side.
“We are friends off the field, but its different when you play for the club,” said Bahadoran. “We also want to win a trophy.”
Ceres goalkeeper Michael Casas is confident his side can rise to the challenge against a “strong” Global team.
“We know that they have good and experienced players, but we also want to win the Cup because we want to continue playing in the AFC Cup,” said Cassas.