Kitchee take on Indian side Churchill Brothers in AFC Cup
Kitchee hope their squad rotation system pays off as they take on Indian side Churchill Brothers in their AFC Cup opening group match at Mong Kok Stadium tonight.
Six of their regulars were rested against Tuen Mun in the League on Sunday as they prioritised a flying start in group E, which also features Singapore Armed Forces and Semen Padang of Indonesia.
Goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng, fullbacks Cheung Kin-fung and Lo Kwan-yee, midfielder Chu Siu-kei and forwards Pablo Gonzalez and Cheng Siu-wai were all missing from the starting line-up when they defeated the New Territories side 2-0.
They are set to return as Kitchee face the team from Goa, currently second in the I-League. But midfielder Lam Ka-wai, who has just recovered from a broken leg injury sustained in an international friendly in November, is likely to stay on the bench.
Club president Ken Ng Kin said it is vital to win at home if they want to repeat last year's successful qualification from the group stage, but acknowledged it would not be easy.
"We want to kick off with a winning start to boost our hopes of reaching the last 16, but the quality of teams is higher than last year, especially the Indonesian side, who should be tough to handle," he said.
Kitchee came first in the group stage last year to reach the last 16, but failed to go further after a 2-0 home defeat to another Indonesian side, Arema, managed by their former coach Dejan Antonic.
Churchill coach Mariano Dias, who put his team through their paces at the Mong Kok ground last night, said they realised Kitchee might be affected by their hectic schedule but was expecting a tough game.
He also said his team could be weakened after two of their foreign players failed to make the trip: forward Balal Arezou from Afghanistan could not get a visa while Brazilian midfielder Beto suffered a broken finger.