Reigning champions Svay Rieng begin the defence of their Metfone C-League title tomorrow at the Old Stadium with a somewhat tricky match-up against league debutants Albirex Niigata FC, who stacked up rather poorly behind Boeung Ket Rubber Field last week but are determined to make amends for their 4-1 defeat.
The man with last season’s golden boot, Khoun Laboravy, is no longer with Svay Rieng. He is now in the Boeung Ket camp but Svay Rieng are already attuned to life without the 25-year-old goal machine and are presenting themselves in good shape and high spirits.
On paper at least, Svay Rieng have nothing much to fear from Albirex. But the first game of a league season is always a tough proposition for any side with the team composition, tempo and rhythm all coming into play.
Getting the right result and a positive spin from this opener is obviously high on coach Sam Vandeth’s list of priorities before the kick off.
Svay Rieng missed the opening of the MCL last weekend as they were in neighbouring Vietnam to compete in the 2014 Ho Chi Minh City FC Cup at the Thong Nhat Sports Centre. However, Vandeth says his squad is now fully focused on their work at home.
“We need to concentrate now on our potential in local competitions such as the Metfone C-League and the Hun Sen Cup as well as our appearance in the 2014 AFC President’s Cup,” he told the Post yesterday.
The champions have been boosted by the acquisition of two foreign strikers – Frenchman and a Nigerian whose full names were not revealed by the club. “I am also seeking a foreign defender and I hope there will be good news soon,” added the coach when questioned about more possible signings.
Naga Corp open the weekend’s six-match schedule in buoyant mood after a stirring 3-0 win over Ministry of National Defence last week. They take on Takeo-based Kirivong Sok Sen Chey, who went down rather tamely to the National Police a week ago.
It is four seasons since Naga took the league honours and they are eager than ever before to get back to the good old glory days, having regained the services of head coach Prak Sovannara. The foreign component had a very strong hand in Naga’s victory over Ministry of National Defence last time out and it is reasonable to expect another similar display from the imports, something that should sound alarm bells in the Kirivong camp.
At the Olympic Stadium, two university-backed sides face off in tomorrow’s first match, with Western University and Asia Europe University battling it out in what promises to be closely contested match.
If TriAsia’s hard fought 1-1 draw against BBU last week is any indication, the new entrants to this level may not go down without a fight against a team as strong and balanced as Kampong Cham’s Boeung Ket. Last year’s runners-up have a much stronger strike force than before and this should keep TriAsia’s backline on the hop.
The pick of the weekend’s matches is easily the clash between four-time champions Phnom Penh Crown and a robust MND, who on their day can take out the best in the business.
All the good virtues of a new look Crown was on show in that 4-0 drubbing of AEU and if the 2011 champs were to reproduce that form, MND could find themselves at the deep end. The Armymen’s best hope is in their rugged style of play they are often feared for. Last year, the first half went terribly wrong for MND though they made a remarkable recovery in the second half of the season.
The team is bent on a better campaign this term and there is no better way to boost self-belief than engaging one of the heavyweights like Crown in a tough game.
Build Bright United have every reason to feel that last week’s draw against TriAsia was more like two points dropped than one earned. If they play with the same zest, they could make matters difficult for the Police, who have a favourable wind behind their back following that compact win over Kirivong.