Mong Kok Stadium, Hong Kong
February 26, 2013
Dempo’s loss has been Churchill’s gain, The refusal of the defending I-League champions to play their home matches outside Goa has meant that Churchill Brothers got the opportunity to represent India along withEast Bengal. The Red Machine now embark on their second ever continental journey when they take on Kitchee of Hong Kong
Churchill Brothers have had a busy second transfer window with the addition of three new players. India captain Sunil Chhetri along with Afghanistan captain Belal Arezou and Lamine Tamba have joined the Varca based club to add fire power to their AFC Cup campaign. However their midfield could be weakened after Belal Arezou failed to travel with the team due to visa issues and Beto sidelined due to a broken finger. The Mariano Dias coached squad however would go all guns blazing to win their first match in this year’s competition.
With the I-League currently into a break, most of Churchill’s players have got a well deserved rest barring the National team players and they would be raring to go against Kitchee. Proof that Mariano Dias’ side is at the top of their game was evident last week when they went past Dempo Sports Club 2-0 in the Goa Professional League. New recruit and India captain Sunil Chhetri scored both goals in that game including one from the spot. Their only concern could be the midfield where they will miss the services of their talismanic midfielder Beto who has been instrumental in their pretty successful I-Legaue campaign so far.
The absence of Afghanistan captain Belal Arezou could also be another concern for the Red Machine. Steven Dias, Lenny Rodrigues, Bikramjit Singh and Tomba Singh will most probably make up the midfield while Raju Yumnan, Lamine Tamba, Denzil Franco and Dharmaraj Ravanan will man the defense. Henri and Chhetri will play upfront in a 4-4-2 formation. The midfield combination of Lenny Rodrigues and Tomba Sngh will be the key to Churchill’s fortunes in this game as they will be responsible for the supply of passes to Sunil Chhetri and Henri Antchouet. Lamine Tamba will have his work cut out in midfield especially against Kitchee striker Pablo Hernandez who will be Kitchee’s target man up front.
Expected Starting XI: Nandy, Ravanan, Raju, Denzil, Tamba, Steven, Bikramjit, Tomba, Lenny, Chhetri, Henri
That Kitchee are known as “Hong Kong Barcelona” would be enough to give Mariano Dias a sleepless night. The Hong Kong team that plays in the Hong Kong First Division League are coached by Josep Gombau, who has been formerly on the coaching staff at Barcelona. Kitchee have the distinction of even holding Arsenal to a draw in one of their pre-season friendlies in 2012.
The cause for concern for the team from Hong Kong could be fatigue. Six of their regulars were rested in the 2-0 win against Teun Mun in the domestic league. Goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng, fullbacks Cheung Kin-fung and Lo Kwan-yee, midfielder Chu Siu-kei and forwards Pablo Gonzalez and Cheng Siu-wai are all expected to feature against Churchill Brothers. Kitchee will be hoping for an encore of last season where they reached the Round of 16 in the AFC Cup losing to Indonesian side Arema 0-2.
“We want to kick off with a winning start to boost our hopes of reaching the last 16, but the quality of teams is higher than last year, especially the Indonesian side, who should be tough to handle,” said club president Ken Kin ahead of the clash.
Expected Starting XI: Kwan Yee, Rehman, Recio, Kin Fung; Siu Kei, Yang, Man Fai; Tarres, Counago, Chi Kwan