Ceres Negros FC guns for a historic berth in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League 2018 when it takes on Tianjin Quanjian FC on Tuesday at the Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium in China.
The Yellow Busmen tackle the Chinese powerhouse club in their all-important 3:30 p.m. match.
This is the first time in Philippine football history that a club has a shot at advancing into the top-tier club competition in Asia.
Ceres Negros head coach Risto Vidakovic though said they have nothing to lose but everything to gain in the massive game.
”We have to enjoy it, try to compete with them and we don’t have pressure. That’s the good thing for us. Whatever we do, if we get a good result, for us it’s a plus,” said the Serbian mentor.
The Busmen cruised to the last playoff round after pulling off a stunning 3-2 victory over Brisbane Roar FC last week at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Stadium.
The win over the Australian team was already a historic one as the inaugural Philippines Football League champion became the first Filipino club to get past the second preliminary round.
Bienvenido Marañon blasted a brace while Omid Nazari buried the eventual match-winner as Ceres overcame an opening goal deficit and silenced the Roar, making headlines not just in the country but also in the Land Down Under and even catching the attention of the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA).
Spanish striker Marañon and Filipino-Iranian midfielder Nazari are optimistic going into the tough match ahead.
”We will be realistic about the big challenge coming up and we will prepare ourselves in the same way as we have for the games in Myanmar and Australia. (We will just) enjoy the experience and the game,” said Marañon.
”They (Tianjin Quanjian) have some big players that everyone knows about and they’re used to playing these games, so of course we have a lot of respect for them as a team. But at the same time, now we’ve beaten Brisbane, we’re flying (to China) with a lot of confidence and belief in ourselves,” said Nazari.
However, Ceres’ departure for China got delayed after facing difficulty in securing visas.
The club only got the visas on Monday afternoon, leaving the squad with little to no time to prepare for the match against Tianjin Quanjian, which the Negrenses will battle amid a subzero temperature.
Tianjin boasts of Brazilian striker Alexander Pato, Belgian midfielder Alex Witsel and French forward Anthony Modeste.
The Chinese squad was seeded into the third round after finishing third in the Chinese Super League.