Today’s Metfone C-League fixtures at Olympic Stadium sees a titanic clash between defending champions Phnom Penh Crown and Hun Sen Cup holders Preah Khan Reach, while National Defence Ministry and Kirivong Sok Sen Chey both seek salvation to their disappointed starts to the 2012 campaign last week.
Phnom Penh Crown v Preah Khan Reach: 2pm
The early kickoff has more than a passing resemblance to pre-season charity fundraisers such as the English Premier League’s Community Shield which involve the league and domestic cup winners.
Preah Khan Reach have been seemingly unstoppable of late, forcing Crown to crash out of the Hun Sen Cup competition with a 4-0 rout in their quarterfinal.
However, PKR General Secretary Ork Samnang noted that the addition of foreign players to the field for league games, who were prohibited from playing in the Cup, could well prove a decisive factor.
“Usually, we will play the same style which we played [in the Cup]. But it will not be easy for us as our rivals will be assisted by foreign players, who carry an advantage in size, height and force,” he said.
The Secretary revelaed that the Military Police-backed club had not made any new signings during the off season, having struggled to reach agreements with some foreign players.
“Our budget is limited, so we cannot buy any foreign players who have a lot of demands and conditions,” he added.
According to the official club website, PKR will hold trials for foreigners interested in pursuing professional contracts with the team from April 1-6.
Ork Samnang said white-hot striker Khoun Laboravy and fellow forward Tum Saray are still their main threats up front, while frontman Phanny I Rotha and midfielder Chea Samnang promise some more fireworks this season
Crown, meanwhile, have just released their final squad list of 24 players including three new African acquisitions.
According to a Crown press release, the most promising new recruit is Ghanaian midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong, a former Khim Borey teammate and player under English coach David Booth at the Thai Premier League side Sisaket.
Frimpong spent five years with Ghanaian Premier League side Liberty Professionals Club before making the move to Thailand.
Henry Asonibe has also joined the champions, having applied himself at Spark FC and then Wat Phnom FC in the 2009 and 2010 campaigns.
Lastly, former Liberian national team player Melvin Tarley is set to make waves in the Kingdom, having featured at seven different clubs in the US from 2001 to 2009 including top flight sides such as Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids.
Chan Chhaya and Nigerian striker Kingsley Njoku have returned to Crown, but are still serving out suspensions from the aftermath of the 2011 AFC President’s Cup final in Taiwan.
Kingsley has been banned for eight matches while Chan Chhaya is marked out for six months.
Defender Pheak Rady is another new addition to the Crown ranks, and he and team-mate Khim Borey expect to avoid any further problems from disgruntled former club National Defence.
In their two encounters last year, Crown and PKR laboured to a 2-2 before Crown edged the second 1-0.
National Defence Ministry v Kirivong Sok Sen Chey: 4pm
National Defence were a shadow of their former self in their opening tie of the season, being held to a goalless draw against Western University.
Kirivong, meanwhile, were soundly beaten 3-1 by Boeung Ket Rubber Field.
The sides have been evenly matched in recent meeting, drawing 1-1 in the group stage of this year’s Hun Sen Cup, and grabbing a win a piece in the two league fixtures last year.
In their game against newly promoted Western, Army strikers Phlong Chanthou and Keo Vannak wasted numerous golden chances to score.
With some key individuals deciding to flee the nest in the close season, loyalists Pov Phearith, Ung Dara, Chhin Chhoeun and Phoung Soksana will need to work hard to sset a good example to the new members.
Take-based Kirivong suffered a demoralising loss to Kampong Cham outfit Boeung Ket, despite fielding a trio of freshly obtained Egyptian players - goalkeeper Magdy Abdalla, striker Mohamed Zaki and midfielder Rada Badry.
Zaki and Army defender Touch Sok Heng will be kept on the sidelines today due to red cards last time out.
Kirivong’s Vietnam-born forward Pech Seiha and Rada Badry will put pressure on their opponents, while skipper In Vichheka will start after missing their first game.