Kitchee are desperate for a win to ease the pressure of a hectic schedule when they take on Semen Padang of Indonesia in the AFC Cup at Mong Kok Stadium tonight.
With two wins in two matches, Kitchee top group E with six points, two ahead of Padang.
"This is an exciting top-of-the-group clash and neither side can afford to lose points, especially for us as the home team," Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin said. "We understand Padang have sent their strongest squad as they also want to beat us to climb to the top of the group.
"We have to face South China twice in domestic competition before our next AFC Cup match against Padang again. If we can win tomorrow, we can extend our advantage to five points over the Indonesians and thus focus more on South China."
Hong Kong champions Kitchee still trail league leaders South China by two points, but the Caroliners can extend that to five with a game in hand against Yokohama FC (HK) on Thursday.
The two heavyweights meet in the FA Cup semi-final first leg on Sunday and a crucial league encounter seven days later which probably will decide the title. In between, Kitchee must travel to West Sumatra to meet Padang.
"It is a hellish schedule and the players will need to be fully focused," Ng said. "We sent our head coach and team manager down to Padang last month to obtain some very useful information and hopefully, it can help us against them tomorrow."
Kitchee slipped up against Sunray Cave Sun Hei on Friday, getting only a 1-1 draw against the bottom side. Ng is confident they will improve tonight.
"We left some of our key players on the bench against Sun Hei to rotate the squad, but they will be able to play against Padang," he said.
Hong Kong internationals Lo Kwan-yee, Chu Siu-kei, Chan Man-fai and Cheng Siu-wai were missing from the starting line-up against Sun Hei, as well as centre half Fernando Recio.
"Recio and another central defender, Zesh Rehman, are both carrying some minor injuries and it's up to the coach to make a final decision," Ng said.
Padang boast a strong line-up. including striker Edward Junior Wilson from Liberia, and midfielders Yu Hyun-koo, from South Korea, and Gabriel Vizcarra, from Argentina.