The second round of ASEAN Zone action in AFC Cup 2020 takes place this week and FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan previews all the upcoming storylines.
CAN NEW BOYS HOUGANG UNITED MAKE IT TWO WINS IN A ROW?
Making their maiden continental appearance in 2020, Hougang United’s AFC Cup debut got off to a fine start a fortnight ago when they came from behind to beat Lao Toyota 3-1.
Given it was their first competitive outing of the new season, there were a couple of teething issues but the Cheetahs largely look settled in coach Clement Teo’s 3-5-2 system – with two-goal Stipe Plazibat a strong focal point in attack while wing-backs Hafiz Abu Sujad and Nazrul Nazari also offered plenty of width and penetration.
Talk about making an impact! 🔥
— FOX Sports LIVE! (@FSAsiaLive) February 12, 2020
Ho Chi Minh City should be a bigger hurdle to overcome on Tuesday but Hougang should still head into this game as slight favourites, especially given they will be looking to bounce back following last week’s 3-0 Community Shield loss to Tampines Rovers.
WILL YANGON UNITED GET UP AND RUNNING AGAINST LAO TOYOTA?
For so long, Yangon United have been one of the dominant forces of Myanmar football and even reached the ASEAN Zone semi-finals of the AFC Cup two years ago, but they have started 2020 in rather uninspiring fashion.
They threw away a lead to draw 2-2 with Ho Chi Minh City in their Group F opener and are already four points off the pace in the Myanmar National League behind surprise leaders Hantharwady United, after Saturday’s 2-2 draw at home to Shan United.
The @AFCCup ASEAN Zone is UP AND RUNNING… but who caught the eye on Match Day 1?
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With seasoned campaigners such as Emmanuel Uzochukwu, Maung Maung Lwin and Kyaw Zin Htet to call upon, the Lions should be faring better and their quality must show against Lao Toyota if they are to give themselves a chance to progress out of the group stage.
WOULD ANOTHER WIN MAKE CERES-NEGROS THE STANDOUT FAVOURITES?
With their previous ASEAN Zone success in 2017 and a streak of recent scalps against more-illustrious opponents in the qualifiers of the AFC Champions League, Ceres-Negros were always going to be AFC Cup contenders in 2020 – but could they actually be stronger than in previous years?
While they have bade farewell to the likes of Alvaro Silva, Patrick Reichelt and Martin Steuble, reinforcements have arrived in Hikaru Minegishi, James Younghusband, Robert Lopez Mendy and Joshua Grommen.
Is that you, Diego? 🤔
There was a ‘Hand of God’ moment in the #AFCCup2020 on Tuesday when Joshua Grommen scored for 🇵🇭 Ceres Negros with his hand against 🇰🇭 Svay Rieng!
And the goal was allowed to stand!! 😱 pic.twitter.com/nWz5w1bPaP
— FOX Sports LIVE! (@FSAsiaLive) February 12, 2020
The Busmen got their campaign off to a comfortable start by beating Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng 4-0 and – against a Than Quang Ninh side who fell to a 4-1 defeat last time out – could enhance their credentials with another dominant display.
DO BALI UNITED HAVE ONE OF THE MOST FEARSOME ATTACKS IN ASEAN ZONE?
It is still early days in AFC Cup 2020 but, based on what Bali United produced a fortnight ago, they could just lay claim to having one of the most fearsome attacks in the competition.
Ilija Spasojevic, who previously played in the UEFA Champions League with Dinamo Tblisi, is a formidable target man who can cause problems for any defence, and is ably supported by Paulo Sergio, Melvin Platje and Muhammad Rahmat in the final third.
When you throw in the likes of Stefano Lilipaly, Lerby Eliandry and Fahmi Al-Ayyubi, Bali could just have an excess of firepower that could worry even the best teams of the ASEAN Zone.
ARE KAYA FC-ILOILO GOOD ENOUGH TO PASS TAMPINES ROVERS TEST?
After a relatively decent AFC Cup campaign last term, where they picked up eight points from a possible 18, Kaya FC-Iloilo picked up maximum points in their first game of the new season after beating Shan United 2-0.
In scorching conditions at the Thuwunna Stadium, the tie was far from straightforward but Kaya’s experience and class – as well as a pivotal cameo appearance from substitute Eric Giganto – ultimately proved telling.
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Still, Kaya will now face a far sterner test of their credentials against Tampines Rovers on Wednesday, and whichever side prevails will claim sole ownership of top spot in Group H and pole position to progress to the zonal semi-finals.
WHO WILL GET UP AND RUNNING – PSM MAKASSAR OR SHAN UNITED?
With Kaya and Tampines meeting in the battle for top spot, PSM Makassar and Shan United face off with the prospect of the losers being rooted to the foot of the table.
Much has been made about the sweeping changes PSM have undergone in the off-season although the likes of Ferdinand Sinaga, Wiljan Pluim and Bayu Gatra still offer enough quality.
Meanwhile, Shan have been struggling on the domestic front as they already trail Hantharwady by eight points in the MNL, and could turn to the AFC Cup for some welcome respite.