Unbeaten Kitchee received good news yesterday ahead of their crucial league game against Citizen on Sunday as Spaniard defender Fernando Recio was cleared of having contracted rubella as had been feared.
"We were told by the doctor it was not the case," said relieved head coach Chu Chi-kwong yesterday. "The player is also keen to play and is racing against time to get fit for our match on Sunday.
"He is very useful as Recio can play in defence or midfield and even score goals up front. His presence will be a boost to the team."
Recio was replaced in the second half against Pune of India in the midweek AFC Cup after scoring the opening goal for the home side at Mong Kok Stadium.
The Spaniard told the coach during the break "he was feeling unwell after developing rash on his neck and face", a symptom of rubella, also known as German measles.
Just the day before the match, prolific striker Jorge Tarres was confirmed to have contracted the infection and forced to miss the crucial regional cup tie. It was feared other Spanish players in the Kitchee camp might also have been affected.
"Tarres will definitely miss Sunday's league game, but is not sure if he can be back in action for next Wednesday's AFC Cup home tie against Nay Pyi Taw, of Myanmar," said Chu.
"We hope he can make it so that we can have more attacking options."
Despite being held to a disappointing 2-2 draw by Pune, Kitchee are still joint top of the group with Nay Pyi Taw. Both teams have collected four points from two games.
"We need Tarres back because we cannot change the quota of foreign players for the AFC Cup," said Chu. "With his presence up front, we are confident of a victory especially with home ground advantage."
But the coach is first focusing on their domestic game against Citizen.
They are close to their third championship in four years with a 12-point advantage over defending champions South China. They need seven points from their five remaining matches to clinch the title.
"Citizen are always difficult to crack, especially as we have to play at the compact Tsing Yi Sports Ground," said the coach. "They had a good game against Eastern in their last match, which will give them a lot of confidence.
"But fortunately we have sufficient depth in the squad as expatriates such as Matthew Lam, Christian Annan, Alexander Akande, Daniel Cancela and Diego Cascon cannot play in the AFC Cup because of the quota and they should all be eager to shine on the domestic front."