Forlan has questioned if Hong Kong clubs have the willingness to compete. (PHOTO COURTESY OF KITCHEE)
With only three games left in the Asian Champions League group stages, two of which are home games in Hong Kong, Kitchee are slowly running out of chances to make their mark in history books. So far, they have suffered three defeats and conceded a total of ten goals, so the task is not only to gain their first points, but also to score their first goal of the tournament.
The upcoming fixture against J-League side Kashiwa Reysol on March 14th probably presents the best opportunity to do just that. Kitchee came close to scoring in Japan last week, and although Kashiwa rested some of their regular starters, the Hong Kong side should be able to build on their improved performance that led to a narrow 0-1 defeat. During the game, Brazilian left winger Fernando had one of his shots saved from the goal line, which should give some more hope that the team can repeat their effort this time round.
Kashiwa Reysold arrived in Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon and had their first training in Tseung Kwan O the day after. It is yet to see if coach Takahiro Shimotaira dares to take a similar gamble by fielding a considerably weaker squad this Wednesday. However, they might be warned by last year’s showing of compatriots Kawasaki Frontale, who remained the only ACL club to draw with Hong Kong side Eastern in that campaign.
Last time out Alex Akande has teamed up with Diego Forlan in the attack. (PHOTO COURTESY OF KITCHEE)
Aside from defensive midfielder Huang Yang, who is still recovering from his thigh injury, coach Alex Chu-chi kwong might also still have to plan without Jordi Tarres as well as centre-back Nando Recio, who picked up an injury right before the game in Kashiwa. Hence, the eventual starting eleven should look very similar to the previous games, with Diego Forlan and Alex Akande being most likely up top, while Lo Kwan-yee and Dani Cancela take up their roles as wing backs. This has worked fairly well in the last game, although Kitchee have still struggled to create enough opportunities to score.
In a recent interview after Kitchee’s 0-6 defeat to Jeonbuk Hyundai, Forlan commented on the prospects of Hong Kong football. Instead of identifying a gap in the quality of players, the Uruguayan international was mainly concerned with the current state of mentality and doubted if the players have the right attitude to compete. Citing the success of Uruguay, as an over-performing football giant despite a population of just 3 million, Forlan emphasized that the willingness to compete might be able to compensate for structural weaknesses.
Goalkeeper Guo Jianqiao made his ACL debut against Kashiwa replacing usual No 1 Wang Zhenpeng. (PHOTO COURTESY OF KITCHEE)
Meanwhile, the Kitchee management also plans to do better for the ticket arrangements. Attracting a respectable crowd of 13,000 people to their first ACL home match, many spectators were dissatisfied after having to wait for long time before they could enter the stadium. Therefore, people have been advised to make use of the designated pre-sale outlets.
The match will kick off on Wednesday, March 14th, at 8 pm at Hong Kong Stadium in Causeway Bay. Kitchee’s last home match against Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quanjian is scheduled for April 4th, but in this case the venue has been changed to Mong Kok Stadium due to the preparations for the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.
Kitchee: Wang Zhenpeng (GK) – Dani Cancela, Helio, Kim Bong-jin, Tong Kin-man – Fernando, Li Ngai-hoi, Krisztian Vadocz, Lo Kwan-yee – Diego Forlan, Alex Akande
Kashiwa Reysol: Kosuke Nakamura (GK) – Yuta Nakayama, Park Jeong-su, Shinnosuke Nakatani, Ryuta Koike –Hidekazu Otani, Ataru Esaka, Kim Bo-kyung – Ramon Lopes, Cristiano da Silva, Junya Ito