Caroliners looking for '12th man' Cup boost
South China are banking on the support of their '12th man' to claim victory against Al Riffa of Bahrain in their AFC Cup round-of-16 match at the Hong Kong Stadium tonight.
Team convenor Steven Lo Kit-sing is expecting more than 25,000 fans to support the home side - a weapon he believes can influence the result.
'I know Middle East teams are not used to playing in front of a big crowd and if we have 25,000 fans cheering for us it will make a big difference,' Lo said.
'I urge our fans to turn up in large numbers for what we hope will be a memorable match.'
A total of 17,500 tickets have been sold so far and Lo is confident that many more fans will show up tonight to buy tickets at the door.
The round of 16 is decided over one match and South China, who finished first in group G, enjoy the advantage of playing at home, while the Bahrain side have had to travel to Hong Kong after finishing second in group E.
However, the format will revert to a home-and-away formula at the quarter-finals stage.
Tonight will be the first time a Hong Kong club have faced opponents from Bahrain in the AFC Cup, but at international level Hong Kong have already experienced how difficult it can be against the Gulf nation, who thrashed Hong Kong 7-1 over two legs in the Asian Cup qualifying tournament last year.
Al Riffa's top striker, Ismaeel Hasan, scored four goals when representing Bahrain against Hong Kong, including a hat-trick at home.
Their coach, Jose Garrido, said last night that Hasan would start against the Caroliners. 'He has recovered from an injury and will play against South China,' Garrido said. 'We are well prepared for the match, but it will be tough against the home team, who will have the crowd behind them.'
Garrido is aware that South China will be missing all of their three foreign players because of suspension, but vowed not to underestimate the home side.
'Any team reaching this stage of the tournament must be strong,' he said. 'Although they will miss their foreign players, their local players will be eager to prove themselves and will certainly make it difficult for us.'
South China forwards Tales Schutz and Leonardo da Silva and centre half Sidrailson will all sit out the tie because of suspension, while marksman Chan Siu-ki is nursing an ankle injury and is likely to start on the bench.
Diminutive forwards Kwok Kin-pong and Au Yeung Yiu-chung will form the partnership up front for the home team. 'The two players are agile and quick, and we hope they can create some surprises,' Lo said.