Nagaworld’s setback against National Defence last week may create some anxiety as they gear up for a repeat of December’s dramatic Metfone C-League title showdown with Phnom Penh Crown in Saturday’s marquee matchup at the Olympic Stadium.
Having been forced to share the spoils with Western Phnom Penh in the opening match, the 1-0 loss to the Army outfit puts Naga coach Meas Channa in the position of having to produce a positive result to shore up team morale.
The inability to turn promising chances into goals has been the most worrying factor for the coach as Naga have arguably the strongest squad this season but have markedly struggled to gel so far.
After a bright start against Cambodian Tiger FC, Crown could only manage a scoreless draw against the Police in their next outing, and the six-time champions will possibly take to the pitch for this crucial game without the services of star striker Shane Booysen, who hurt his knee seconds into the match against the Armymen last week.
With Bin Thierry and Keo Sokpheng also sidelined due to injuries, head coach Oriol Mahedano will face the challenge of working out viable combinations.
In Saturday’s other game, Asia Europe take on Cambodian Tiger, with both sides intent on taking the points.
After bagging an impressive dozen goals in successive home wins, Preah Khan Svay Rieng are likely to face a stiff challenge from the visiting National Police side. The Police will have drawn encouragement from their strong showing against Crown, although they are still looking for their first win.
Svay Rieng will be feeling confident, however, as they enjoy home advantage and red-hot current form.
With North Korean striker Choe Myong-ho playing the lead role in the win against Naga, Army will again be leaning on their new import to help heap further woe on Western Phnom Penh, who were on the end of a 6-0 drubbing by Boeung Ket.
Western, at home, will have to recapture the form they displayed against Naga to stand any chance of making a match of it against strong rivals.
Today’s only fixture at the Olympic Stadium has the look of a mismatch, with tottering CMAC United staring down the Boueng Ket barrel.
After this weekend’s action, the league season heads for a break until April 1 to make way for next week’s Mekong River Festival in Kampong Cham and friendlies in preparation for Cambodia’s final fling against Syria away in Oman as the nearly year-long second round of Asian World Cup qualifying comes to a close.