Midfield boost as Citizen eye must-win AFC match
Citizen will be buoyed by the return of attacking midfielders Paulinho and Yuan Yang for tonight's must-win game against Singapore's Home United in the AFC Cup at Mong Kok Stadium.
Both the Brazilian and mainlander Yuan have been out of action for more than a fortnight nursing injuries. But they have been declared fit for the crucial encounter which could see Citizen step closer to sealing a place in the last 16 in the regional second-tier competition.
'This is a must-win game for us. If we draw or lose, we will be eliminated from the competition,' said Citizen executive director Calvin Pui Ho-wang. 'A win could see us join Kitchee in the next round.
'It will be great to have two Hong Kong teams in the last 16.'
Kitchee, currently top in group F, play tomorrow away to Tampine Rovers of Singapore. They need to win one of their last two games to ensure they finish on top and secure home advantage in the last 16.
Citizen trail Thai champions Chonburi and Home United in group G. But a win would see them draw level with the Singaporeans on seven points with both teams left with one game - Citizen against bottom-placed Yangon United of Myanmar and Home against Chonburi.
'Playing at home is always an advantage, and on top of that our confidence is sky-high after the way we came back against Chonburi earlier this month. That result has given us a huge boost,' Pui said.
Trailing Chonburi 3-1 at Mong Kok Stadium, Citizen scored two goals in stoppage time.
'We lost to Home United in Singapore. Our energy levels went down in the second half and we conceded three soft goals. It will be different tomorrow,' Pui promised. 'There is more confidence in the side now, and the players believe they can do it.'
Kitchee, meanwhile, arrived in Singapore on Sunday and have had two training sessions to acclimatise to the humidity. They have received a fillip with the news that TSW Pegasus, rivals for the domestic league, lost 4-0 to South China. 'Our morale was boosted with the defeat of Pegasus,' said club boss Ken Ng Kin.
'But we have put that aside and everyone is concentrating on this crucial AFC Cup match, as a win on Wednesday night will seal our qualification and the possible home advantage in the last-16 round.'
Kitchee will be missing midfielder Huang Yang, on two yellow cards, and it is expected that Fernando Recio will move into the defensive midfield position with Liu Quan-kun partnering Zesh Rehman (pictured) in central defence.
'It will be a tough game against Tampine Rovers as they have been improving steadily since their visit to Hong Kong,' Ng added.