Kaya-Iloilo looks for upset vs fancied Shanghai squad in AFC Champions League playoffs

Published June 23, 2021, 1:59 PM

by Jonas Terrado

Members of the Kaya-Iloilo FC

Kaya-Iloilo goes for an upset victory over Chinese club Shanghai Port tonight in a playoff for a spot in the AFC Champions League group stage in Bangkok, Thailand.

Last season’s Philippines Football League runner-up takes on the Chinese Super League side at 9 p.m. local time (10 p.m. Manila time) inside the Pathum Thani Stadium in the Thai capital.

A win will make Kaya the second Filipino club ever to compete in Asia’s premier club competition, joining PFL champion United City which was drawn in Group I.

The chance of playing in Group F of the Champions League together with South Korea’s K.League side Ulsan Hyundai, Vietnamese club Viettel and Thailand’s BG Pathum United has increased with Shanghai sending a mixture of players from its youth and reserve level.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Shanghai has relinquish its role as favorites to prevail over Kaya.

If Shanghai Port prevails, Kaya will be relegated to the AFC Cup for the third consecutive year.

However, reports of the possible cancellation of the AFC Cup’s East region due to the COVID-19 situation may be used as a rallying point for Kaya to aim for a Champions League berth.

The match will also mark Kaya’s first match since tapping Graham Harvey as its new coach and signing former Stallion-Laguna players Fitch Arboleda and Jhan-Jhan Melliza, Japanese-Korean midfielder Ryo Fujii, Ghanian Patrick Asare and Philippine Azkals member Jarvey Gayoso.

Prominent holdovers from last season’s campaign are Jovin Bedic, Eric Giganto, Kenshiro Daniels, Japanese Masa Omura and Trinidad and Tobago native Carlyle Mitchell.