South China are gunning to celebrate their 100th anniversary with a third consecutive league title. Having won back-to-back titles, the Caroliners start their new campaign at Hong Kong Stadium today against a weakened Citizen. While they should have little difficulty seeing off last season's runners-up Citizen, who have lost a number of major players during the off-season, a hat-trick of titles is a far more demanding proposition. A rejuvenated Kitchee, plus traditional powerhouses Happy Valley and Convoy Sun Hei as well as newcomers Tin Shui Wai Pegasus, are poised to mount serious challenges. Indeed, the last team to win three league titles in a row were Eastern when they dominated the local scene by clinching the championships from 1993 to 1995. 'Our target is to make it three times in a row to celebrate our 100th anniversary,' said convenor Steven Lo Kit-sing. 'It is very rare to have a football team with such a long history, and I am confident that with our strengthened squad, we will be able to achieve some impressive results.' Lo's confidence, of course, is underwritten by another big-spending season with a budget of HK$15 million, roughly double that of clubs such as Kitchee, Pegasus and Fourway. Lo's focus has been on acquiring top players, bringing in striker Chan Siu-ki from Kitchee, fullback Poon Yiu-cheuk from Happy Valley and two up-and-coming players, Lo Chun-kit and Auyeung Yiu-chung. The thinking behind going local is that the AFC Cup will be their next target and the competition will only allow three foreign players in a match. While Chan and Poon are well-established Hong Kong internationals, Lo is the winner of last season's Best Young Player Award and Auyeung is arguably the most gifted player in the Hong Kong Olympic squad. Although Lo did not disclose Chan's transfer fee, it is believed the amount far exceeded the record for a domestic player of HK$400,000 they paid for centre-half Chan Wai-ho from Rangers two seasons ago. 'We have formed the best Chinese player line-up and, with our reliable expatriates, we want to do better in the AFC Cup after being eliminated in the group stage last season,' said Lo. 'Our target is to reach the semi-finals in the Asian competition and then we'll see how far we can go from there.' South China will also travel to Europe for a home-and-away friendly competition against a top European side, possibly a team from the English Premier League, to celebrate their 100th anniversary. 'It will be a plan we definitely want to go ahead and more details will be disclosed in due course,' he said. South China's opposition have also not been idle in the off-season. Kitchee have made 17 changes in management and player personnel after a disappointing season in which they ended up with no silverware. Club executive director Ken Ng Kin said the rejuvenated side would do their best to stop South China win the league. 'Our primarily target is to win the league and if possible, one more cup title,' said Ng. 'We have undergone a major shake-up in the closing season and we won't let our fans down.' Chilean Julio Moreno, who was the assistant coach of the China national team who reached the 2002 World Cup finals, has been appointed the new head coach. The South American has also brought two young midfielders from his country - Gonzelo Sepulveda and Gustavo Zamudio, together with another midfielder, Heiner Backhaus from Germany, who arrived from Malta champions Valletta FC. Newcomers Pegasus have also backed up their ambitions by showing the money. Supported by a group of enthusiasts from Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai districts, the team have come up with a budget of HK$10 million for the season. They have secured the services of a long list of reliable expatriates, including South China's Manoel Santos, Workable's Roberto Fronza, Louis Mvoguele Ayock of Kitchee, Fabio Oliveira of Happy Valley and Wisdom Agbo of Rangers. Their domestic player line-up is quite presentable, too, considering the arrival of South China's Cheng Siu-wai and Yip Chi-ho as well as Lin Junseng and Cheung Kin-fung of Kitchee. Hong Kong international goalkeeper Ho Kwok-chuen also joined from Citizen. Pegasus chairman Mingo Tang Hing-chee was delighted with their pre-season buildup, which included a 3-0 trouncing of South China in a friendly, in which mainlander Zeng Qixiang scored twice. 'We want to be in the top three in the league and we also want a cup title,' he said.