Ceres, Kaya in tough continental leagues next year
Filipino clubs Ceres-Negros and Kaya-Iloilo face familiar foes as they vie in continental competitions next year, following the draw of the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup held late Tuesday.
Ceres, the three-time Philippines Football League champion, has been drawn with Myanmar side Shan United in the first round of AFC Champions League qualifying with the duel slated on Jan. 14.
It will mark the sixth straight year that the Busmen are seeing action in a continental competition. Their best performance came in 2018 when they reached the final round of qualifying before losing to Chinese powerhouse Tianjin.
Ceres nailed the AFC Cup Asean zone title two years ago, but lost in the Asean zone final in 2018 before getting eliminated in the zonal semifinal last year.
Kaya, which finished second to Ceres in the league, found itself in a tough draw in the AFC Cup where it will likely meet Tampines Rovers of Singapore, PSM Makassar and Shan.
The Busmen have a long, difficult climb as they try to qualify for Asia’s top-tier club competition. Should they survive Shan United, they would need to also beat Thailand’s Port FC with the winner flying to Japan to battle Japan League runners up Tokyo FC.
The AFC Cup awaits Ceres if they fail to advance to the main draw of the AFC Champions League. The Busmen are in a challenging group with Vietnam’s Than Quang Ninh and Indonesian champion Bali United in Group G of the AFC Cup. Completing the group will be the winner in the playoff between Laos’ Master 7 FC and Cambodia’s Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC.
Kaya’s AFC Cup group has yet to be finalized with Tampines still in the qualifying round of the AFC Champions League as well as Shan United.
“It’s a tough group again as usual. We go back to Indonesia, we visit Myanmar,“ said Kaya team manager Aly Borromeo. “We’re looking to get back at PSM [Makassar]. If they win their playoff [against a Timor-Leste side], which most likely is going to happen, there’s going to be a bit of a battle there.”