UNITED Football League’s Loyola Meralco tries to move a step closer to duplicating its feat last season when it tangles with Singapore League side Tanjong Pagar today in the first leg of their Singapore Cup quarterfinal clash at Queenstown Stadium.
The Sparks, a surprise semifinalists last year, are once again looking at the prestigious tournament as their saving grace after their failure to win any trophy in the UFL last season.
But Tanjong Pagar, with a much-improved roster from last season, offers a stiff test for the Sparks, who lost an important member to their side in attacking midfielder Mark Hartmann during the off-season.
Hartmann has transferred to Global, which was playing DPMM Brunei in another Singapore Cup quarterfinal clash at presstime.
National team stars Phil and James Younghusband, whose presence still draw huge crowds here, will once again lead the line for the Sparks, who reached the quarterfinals after a 2-0 victory over Harimau Muda-B last May.
Experienced international players Chad Gould and Simon Greatwich are also in the Loyola lineup.
“We can cope and I think we will be just fine,” said Sparks coach Vince Santos, whose squad finished just third in the UFL behind Stallion and Global last season.
“The Filipino fans here have been tremendous. We’re looking forward to playing for them again.”
One notable addition to the Sparks’ roster is Ghanaian goalkeeper Baba Sampana, who is expected to start ahead of the injured Ref Cuaresma.