JAKARTA, INDONESIA — A year after two fiery matches in the AFC Cup, the Philippines’ Kaya FC–Iloilo and Indonesia’s PSM Makassar are set to meet again in back-to-back games in the Asian club competition. The teams will face off today, at the Gelora Bung Karno Madya Stadium in Jakarta, before meeting again in Manila on April 15. With only a point separating the two sides in Group H, and the memory of last year’s contests still fresh, both contests are expected to bring plenty of exciting action.
“PSM is one of the tough opponents in the group. We just played last year, and over two matches we didn’t win against them. We’re happy that we’re grouped together again, and this time we’ll try to get a win,” said Kaya head coach Oliver Colina.
After missing out on the majority of matches in 2019, Simone Rota has played the full 90 minutes in the last two outings and is expected to partner with Carlyle Mitchell in the heart of Kaya’s defense once again.
“It’s been two weeks that we’ve been preparing. We know they’re a strong team, and we know that every point is important for us to reach the next stage,” he said. “We played them last year, but this time we are a new side — new signings, new coaching staff, so I think we will do better this time.”
While the domestic league in the Philippines has yet to begin, PSM Makassar hse had a few more matches to get acquainted with its new Croatian coach Bojan Hodak. Including the qualifying round for the AFC Cup, the Indonesian side has managed four wins, one draw, and one defeat in 2020 so far. Although presumably sharper in terms of fitness, its busy schedule has not been without some setbacks.
“Maybe it’s not an advantage for them that their league hasn’t started, but they are fresh. For us, it’s our fourth match in 12 days,” said Mr. Hodak “We have a few players that can’t play. Our captain, Wiljan Pluim had a red card and is still suspended for this match. We have two or three players who are either injured or sick after our last match as well.”
“They’ve played two games and they have played really well. They had a draw away to Shan [United], and had a draw against Tampines [Rovers], so at the moment they are leading the table (Group H). It will be a tough match,” he added. “They don’t have many stars on their team, but they are a very hard-working team. We must give respect to them also.”
Among those fit to play for PSM is in-form Indonesian striker Ferdinand Sinaga, who boasts a tally of six goals in the 2020 AFC Cup so far.
“We watched a lot of their games, but it’s not just about individuals in football. We need to deal with the whole team. We’ve studied how the team plays, and we’ve studied the individuals as well,” said Mr. Colina. “We just found out today that he (Pluim) will not play. He’s a very good player and one that carries the team. We are very happy he’s out, but again this team has a lot of good players,” said Mr. Colina.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, Tuesday’s match will be played behind closed doors, denying PSM’s passionate supporters the opportunity to act as the team’s 12th man.
“We know we are playing behind closed doors. Normally there is a big crowd, so right now we are just focusing on ourselves and we’re not really thinking of anything [outside of that],” said Mr. Rota. “In the past two weeks, we’ve really focused on our team. We’ve looked at some of their games, but really we’re focused on us, and what we need to do.”
Tuesday’s match will kick off at 4:30 p.m. (Philippine time), and will be aired live on FOX Sports 2, and One Sports PH’s TV Channel, Facebook Page, and YouTube.