Butt, Kezman set for Asian bows
Nicky Butt and Mateja Kezman should get their first taste of continental football in Asia when they turn out for South China in their AFC Cup Group H opener against Persipura Jayapura at Hong Kong Stadium today.
The pair have featured in a number of domestic matches since joining the club and are viewed as key players in the club's ambitions to win silverware outside of their own country.
However, Persipura boss Jackson Thiago believes it is important not to focus on the threat of two individuals, but rather the South China team as a whole. "Every match we concentrate on the opposition team, not just one or two players," he said. "That's the way we play, that's the mentality I try to bring. They have two big name players but I think two players cannot decide the game. We have to focus on the whole South China side."
In the other group game, East Bengal will host Chonburi at Salt Lake Stadium eager to transfer their domestic form onto the continental stage. The Indian side - who are coached by Trevor Morgan - currently lie in second place in the I-League.
And Morgan revealed he has no plan to make two many changes to avoid disrupting the harmony of the team. "In the I-League and AFC Cup we will always endeavour to put out our best 11," he said. "I don't like to change the team too much or alter our formation as the players are comfortable in our system."
In Group G, Muang Thong caretaker coach Robert Procureur has been tasked with picking up his players for the game against Hanoi T&T after the Thai champions missed out on a place in the AFC Champions League. The Belgian replaced Roberto Carlos de Carvalho after Muang Thong lost to Indonesian side Sriwijaya in the ACL play-offs. "Taking all three points is the only option," said Procureur. "The team is hungry for a win."
The other game in the group will see Maldivian side Victory play host to Tampines Rovers of Singapore at National Stadium.
In west Asia, former champions Kuwait SC travel to Oman to take on Al Suwaiq in Group D while Iraqis Al Talaba host Jordanians Al Wehdat. Finally, Group C's clashes will see Kuwait's Al Nasr entertain Duhok of Iraq while Syrians Al Jaish are in Jordan to face Al Faisaly.