TOP local club football team Ceres-Negros FC begins its 2020 campaign next week, starting with the preliminary stage of the AFC Champions League (ACL).

Opening their ACL bid here at home against Myanmar’s Shan United on Jan. 14, the three-time Philippines Football League (PFL) champion said it is preparing the best way it can for what it expects to be a tough run in the tournament.

“We cannot promise anything, but we will represent the country in the best way possible. We are going to fight until the last minute to reach the next round. It’s a very hard competition. But we are going to try. We will give our best so I hope everyone will support us,” said Ceres coach Risto Vidakovic at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday at the Amelie Hotel in Manila.

Ceres will face off with Shan United at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium where it hopes to come away a winner to move to the next round of the preliminaries and continue to vie for a spot in the group stage of the ACL.

The team will parade staples like Bienvenido Maranon, Stephan Schrock and Rolland Muller in the contest, joined by newly signed players Mark Hartmann, Pika Minegishi, Josh Grommen and Arnie Pasinabo.

Mr. Maranon said they are very excited to get the year going and play in Rizal as their home turf of Panaad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City is being renovated.

Back in 2018, Ceres reached the third round of the preliminaries, which Mr. Vidakovic said they are looking to take cue from.

“Two years ago we made it to the third round so hopefully we can create a surprise again in the first two rounds,” said the Ceres head coach. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo