A SHORTHANDED Global side opens defense of its United Football League title against a retooled Pasargad tonight at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. with Global playing without key players Patrick Reichelt, Jeff Christiaens, Marwin Angeles, Matthew Uy and Misagh Bahadoran, who are now in Myanmar with the national team.
Global, however, still has depth in its roster with Izzo El-Habbib, Yu Hoshide and defender Valentine Kama giving the side plenty of quality.
New Global coach Brian Reid sees a tough road back to the top for Global, which won the title last year on goal difference.
“All of the teams are strong,” said Reid, who coached AYR United in the Scottish top flight. “We just have to work hard every game because no match will be easy.”
Pasargad is coming off a second place finish in the PFF Smart Club Championship—its biggest accomplishment since undergoing a rebuilding program to keep up with the big guns in the league.
Among the players added to the Iranian-flavored side are Reza Ataei and defender Jaham Taher, who proved solid in Pasargad’s run to the finals.
Army and Loyola Meralco clash in the curtain-raiser at 5:15 p.m.
The UFL’s first division has 10 teams with second-division champion Pachanga Diliman promoted to the top flight, replacing Navy, which was relegated after finishing 10th last year.
The Sparks, who faltered in the final stretch of the season last year, strengthened their squad during the off-season by acquiring second division top scorer Freddie Gonzalez in a bid to finally end their long wait for a title.
Both teams will also be without their best players, who are part of the Azkals side for the friendly against Myanmar on Wednesday.
The Sparks will miss skipper James Younghusband and top scorer Phil Younghusband as well as first-choice keeper Ref Cuaresma.
Veteran internationalists Ed Sacapano, Roel Gener and Boogie Margarse will not be around for Army, after they were called up by German coach Michael Weiss. Army flirted with relegation last season and the Armed Forces side is hoping to improve its eighth place finish.