Having been thumped 5-1 by Tampines Rovers last time out, Home’s season looks to have gone from bad to worse. A 3-1 home defeat to Persija Jakarta in an AFC Champions League playoff was followed by a dour goalless draw against Albirex Niigata, and a 1-0 loss at home to Brunei DPMM, a side Home smashed 9-3 last season.
Bottom of the Singapore Premier League table without a point to their name, Home are slightly better off in this season’s AFC Cup, with a stunner from Hami Syahin stealing a point against much-fancied rivals PSM Makassar at the Jalan Besar Stadium last month.
Playing in this competition for the first time since 2016, Copa Paulino Alcantara winners FC Kaya-Iloilo come into tonight’s game off the back of a 1-1 draw away at group rivals Lao Toyota. With the Philippine Premier League not kicking off until the end of the month, Kaya appear to be at a sizeable disadvantage fitness-wise compared to their Singaporean rivals.
With PSM Makassar looking like the favourites to win the group, Noel Marcaida’s side will fancy their chances of snatching the second qualifying berth, should they manage a result against Home tonight.
Wounded Protectors look out of sorts
Having won last season’s ASEAN Zonal Final, Home appeared very much to be the favourites coming into the 2019 AFC Cup. However, with their poor early season form seeing them score just three goals in four games whilst conceding 10 themselves, Saswadimata is faced with a huge headache as to how he can restore his side to their former glory.
Last season’s Player of the Season Song Uei-young has been sidelined for much of this campaign with a groin injury, and with the South Korean setting a return date for the end of March, it could be a while yet before Home see their most valuable asset return to the side.
With only 35-year-old Shahril Ishak available up top for the Bishan-based side, Home could struggle to put the ball in the net away at Panaad Park. The loss of M. Anumanthan to Hougang United this season also leaves the Protectors light in the middle of midfield, which could cause problems against this explosive Kaya side.
Home will definitely be without striker Song Uei-young for this fixture, with goalkeeper Rudy Khairullah looking a doubt too, having featured just twice this season. Australian midfielder Isaka Cernak is nursing a knock, and despite missing out against Tampines on Friday could be set for a return.
Home United Predicted XI: Nazri; Faritz, Abdil, Faizal, Aqhari; Izzdin, Fazli, Iqram, Adam; Hafiz, Shahril.
Kaya look to seal 2nd place
Denied an opening day win by Sayfa Aphideth’s 87th minute strike for Lao Toyota, Kaya will look to notch their first 3 points of this season’s AFC Cup. Boasting the likes of Jovin Bedic, a goalscorer for the Philippines against Thailand in last year’s AFF Suzuki Cup, the Lions will aim to cause an upset against a struggling Home United side in front of their fans at Panaad Park.
Unfortunately for the Philippine side, they were compelled by the AFC to play their home matches at the aforementioned ground in Bacolod City, rather than their traditional home ground in Iloilo. This came after the Iloilo City Sports Complex failed to meet the Confederation’s stringent stadium requirements.
Speaking to the Manila Bulletin, Jing Jamlang, Kaya FC-Iloilo media and marketing director, bemoaned the loss of their home advantage as a result.
“We are working remedy that maybe we can still play at the Iloilo Sports Complex as the AFC Cup progresses,” he said.
“Of course, we wanted to play here. But it just not possible.”
Kaya come into the game with little in the way of injuries and suspensions, essentially a given as their domestic campaign has not yet begun. As such, they will look to line up at full strength against the Protectors.
Kaya-Iloilo Predicted XI: Casas; Matas, Omura, Tacusalme, Soriano; Tuason, Osei, Angeles, Pasinabo; Bedic, Mintah.
With PSM Makassar heavy favourites to beat Lao Toyota in Group H’s other fixture, this game could well decide who takes up 2nd spot in Group H, ahead of what is set to be a race to the wire.