By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
PHILIPPINE clubs United City Football Club and Kaya FC-Iloilo hit the homestretch of their respective 2021 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL) campaigns as they play their penultimate group play matches on Thursday.
It has been a struggle for both United City and Kaya in the ongoing tournament which has seen them still winless and tail-ending up to this point.
Local pro league champion United City (0-1-3) is in joint third in Group I with a point to show for while Kaya (0-0-4) is at fourth in Group F.
United City plays China’s Beijing FC (0-1-3) in Thursday’s game at the Lokomotiv Stadium in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, set for 10 p.m. (Manila time).
The two teams fought to a 1-1 draw in their first encounter and are looking to get the better of the other to avoid winding up in last place in their grouping.
United City is coming off a 0-2 loss to Group I-leading Kawasaki Frontale FC of Japan on July 6.
Kaya, meanwhile, takes on hometown bet BG Pathum United in a match at the Pathum Thani Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand, at 6 p.m.
The Filipino side lost to BG Pathum, 1-4, in their first meeting on June 26.
Kaya has been competing better since then but has yet to notch its first-ever win in the ACL.
While it has been a struggle for the team in their debut ACL tournament, Kaya coach Graham Harvey said the campaign is not a lost one for the experience the club has been getting.
“[The] opportunity to learn in these big moments will stand us in good stead when we go back to the PFL. It will stand us in good stead for the next two games, to show that since we’ve been here, we’re competitive. We’ll make sure that in all the games we’re in, we’re hard to beat,” he said.
In the AFC Champions League, the top teams in each of the groupings advance to the Round of 16 with the second-place clubs qualifying if they end up as among the best runner-up teams.