Kitchee strike force to stop Al Faisaly
Kitchee will field a new-look strike force in Jorge Tarres and Alex Akande as they hope to gain a crucial edge in the AFC Cup quarter-final first-round tie against Al Faisaly of Jordan at Mong Kok Stadium tonight.
A victory at home will see Kitchee in a strong position for the away tie on September 24 in Amman, but this has not stopped head coach Alex Gomez from experimenting upfront and fielding an untested combination by calling up Akande to join top goal-scorer Tarres.
"I have high expectations from both of them and I'm confident they will hit it off," said Gomez, who will be in charge of Kitchee for the first time in an international competition.
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Kitchee have changed coaches since their last AFC Cup match, a 2-0 victory over Kelantan in the round of 16 in May. Former mastermind Josep Gombau has departed and is now Down Under with A-League side Adelaide United.
But Gomez has promised to play the same attacking style hoping Tarres will tap this form to give the local team a buffer before their Amman visit.
Tarres, 32, has scored 11 goals in seven games, finding the net in each match, which has resulted in Kitchee entering the quarter-final round. He leads the contest's top-scorer list by a brace.
"There is no extra pressure on me. I have been scoring goals, true, but all this wouldn't be possible without the support of the others," Tarres said yesterday.
The Spaniard, who formerly played for Espanyol, was confident he would hit it off with his new strike partner Akande. "He knows my game inside out, and likewise I know his game too. I'm sure we'll be okay. I'm sure it is going to be a hard game but we are confident as a team," he said.
Akande, 24, was brought to Hong Kong from England by Kitchee six seasons ago. The Nigerian-born player has been loaned out to other clubs and last season played for district team Tai Po. But he has now been reunited with the mother ship and is hoping his first start for the season will be a spectacular success.
"Jorge is top-class and it is going to be a great moment for me to start alongside him," Akande said. "But I'm under no pressure and no stress. I will go out there and enjoy myself."
Kitchee have had a sound start in the local league, winning opening games in style - hammering Sun Hei 6-2 and defeating Eastern 3-0.
Tarres was on target in both games, a brace in the opener and one against Eastern. If he sparkles again, Kitchee can look forward to hitting the scoreboard tonight at Mongkok Stadium.
But he will not have it all his way. "We saw Kitchee's game against Manchester United this summer and were very impressed with the way they played, particularly their striker," said Al Faisaly head coach Ali Kmeikh. "They have players who won't be out of place in our league."
Al Faisaly has the weight of history behind them having won the AFC Cup twice - in 2005 and 2006, on the last occasion defeating Sun Hei at this stage.