Eastern on a $200,000 promise to clinch title
RUNAWAY league leaders Eastern have been promised a $200,000 win bonus and a training holiday in Sweden if they clinch the First Division championship by beating Ernest Borel tonight.
Team manager Peter Leung has called on his players to take the title in style and remove any doubts that they are the territory's number one team - by scoring an emphatic win over last season's dual cup winners.
Leung does not want to be made to wait until Eastern's next match against bottom club British Forces before his team get their hands on the trophy.
So the players have been offered a mouthwatering double of a huge cash windfall and a trip overseas to land the coveted crown at Mongkok Stadium tonight.
A win would give Eastern an unassailable 10-point lead over nearest challengers Instant-Dict, who have just three games left.
Leung said: ''We want to win the league as quickly as possible to remove any doubt that we are the best team in the league. It would be a nice way to win it by beating such strong opposition as Ernest Borel.
''It would be an anti-climax if we were forced to do it against British Forces so that's why it's important for us to win without delay.
''The players are all in the right frame of mind and we'll be at full strength so obviously we are very confident,'' he said.
Eastern will welcome back quicksilver striker Paul Nixon after a one-match suspension.
But centre-back Lai Law-kau, also available from a single-match ban, is likely to be left on the bench as Leung seeks to give promising Chan Chi-keung more match experience.
Chan did a creditable job in Eastern's 1-1 draw with Instant-Dict and has been included in Hongkong's World Cup squad for their World Cup qualifying campaign in Beirut, Lebanon next month.
Eastern will be buoyed by the knowledge they have already beaten Borel twice this season - a 4-0 thrashing in the league in January and a 2-1 win in the Viceroy Cup semi-finals last month - and the league leaders are in no mood for anything less than victory.
But Borel, who have had a disappointing league campaign and are currently in seventh place, are relishing the chance to spoil Eastern's party.
Team manager Tsui Kwok-on said: ''We are not going to make it easy for them. We are going to push them to their limits.
''We have been beaten by them twice this season and we are itching for revenge,'' he said.
Borel will field the same line-up which routed Kitchee 4-0 last week with Clive Goodyear, Choy Wai-man, Tam Ah-fook and Wong Kwok-on looking a solid back four.
Craig Foster will be their key man in midfield, aiming to supply the chances for striking duo Wong Chi-keung and Keith Thompson.
Eastern striker Dale Tempest, the territory's leading scorer with 17 goals this season, said a win tonight would be the perfect way to clinch the title.
''We can expect a decent crowd and it would be a nice way for us to win it,'' he said.
''We have a good record against Borel and the match means more to us because, from their point of view, their league hopes are over.'' ''We have got over our Viceroy Cup final disappointment and we are now looking forward to clinching the league,'' he added.
Tempest has put his planned playing stint in Norway on hold as the club management want him to play in the early stages of the last domestic tournament of the season, the Regal FA Cup.
Tempest had planned to leave next month to play for Norwegian First Division club IK Start, returning to the territory in time to play in the Cup semi-finals and final, assuming Eastern get through, before flying back to Norway in late June for the rest of the summer.
But Eastern, winners of the Camelpaint Challenge Shield in December and with the league title all but won, are leaving nothing to chance as they bid to make it a hat-trick of trophies with FA Cup success.
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