Newly crowned Philippines Football League champions Ceres Negros FC seek to reclaim the AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Championship as it face Singaporean side Home United in the first leg of the ASEAN Zonal final on Wednesday 1 August 2018 at the Pana-ad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod, Negros Occidental.
The Negros-based squad advanced to the Zonal final after a 3-2 aggregate win over Burmese side Yangon United last May.
However, the PFL champions head to the first leg without the services of top scorer Bienvenido Marañon. The Spanish forward was handed a two match suspension for his red card during the second leg of the Zonal semifinals last May.
Despite Marañon’s absence, Ceres have bolstered their lineup during the transfer window. Goalkeeper Roland Muller and Paul Mulders returned to the side with Curt Dizon, Jerry Barbaso, and Blake Powell as the new additions.
“We have already prepared without (Marañon),” said Ceres head coach Risto Vidakovic. “We have to think about the players that can play and I think we have enough supply of players that the team will not suffer in his absence.”
This will be the third match between the two sides this year. Ceres drew Home in Singapore last February, but Home claimed an away win last April to finish the group stage on top. In addition, this will be the second time the two sides will meet in the Zonal final after Ceres defeated Home United in last year’s Zonal final, 3-2 on aggregate.
“There’s always pressure in football but I think mainly we put that pressure on ourselves,” said Ceres captain Martin Steuble. “We want to give back to the people here. We want to win that final more than ever.”