Match Tuesday
(Rizal Memorial Stadium)
8 p.m. — Kaya FC Iloilo vs Shandong Taishan FC

KAYA FC ILOILO looks to put up a winning performance in its first home game in the AFC Champions League (ACL) as it tangles with China’s Shandong Taishan FC tonight at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Game time is set at 8 p.m. with the reigning Philippine titlists finally enjoying crowd support after playing their previous ACL campaigns in Pathum Thani, Thailand in 2021 and India last year.

“We’re really excited knowing our families are going tonight to support us and they’re going to be our ‘12th man.’ We’re very happy to be the first to play at home,” said midfielder Fitch Arboleda.

Kaya hopes to make the most of its home field advantage to score its breakthrough win in the ACL group stage after going 0-6 in Group F two years ago. It failed to make the main draw last year after bowing to Sydney FC in the preliminary round, 0-5.

But the home club, seeded straight to the group stage this year, is fully aware it’s going to be a tall order against the Chinese FA Cup winners.

“They (Shandong) are a very, very strong team. They play in the Chinese Super League, a very strong league. Physically, they’re an imposing team and play a very different style of football. But nothing that we’re not prepared for,” said coach Colum Curtis.

For the Kaya mentor, the pressure is not on the Filipino club but on the visitors.

“The pressure is on Shandong because they come to us and they’re expected to get three points. It’s our job to ensure they won’t walk away with it. And the players will do everything to give a good performance and proudly represent the Philippines,” Mr. Curtis said. — Olmin Leyba