Tampines Rovers have settled at their Manila base ahead of Tuesday’s crucial 2017 AFC Champions League preliminary round playoff against Global FC.
The Stags, who arrived in the Philippines on Sunday, will look to move one step closer to a meeting with Shanghai Shenhua and Carlos Tevez.
Already assured of a place in the 2017 AFC Cup — Asia’s second-tier club competition — the Stags will need to beat Global, and Australian side Brisbane Roar before a showdown with big-spending Shanghai Shenhua to book their spot in Group E.
Tampines are staying at the New World Hotel at Manila Bay, and will have their second training session on Monday night at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Last season, they made the quarterfinals of the AFC Cup before losing to eventual finalists Bengaluru FC, of India.
A preseason tour to Malaysia saw them draw 2-2 with second division outfit Terengganu last weekend, which was followed by a narrow 2-1 defeat to the state’s top tier club T-Team on Monday.
Tampines have undergone an upheaval since the end of last season, with none of their foreign trio of Jermaine Pennant, Billy Mehmet and Jordan Webb extending their stay at the Jurong West Stadium.
Nonetheless, coach Akbar Nawas appears to have replaced them adequately. Croatian striker Ivan Dzoni and Japanese winger Ryutaro Megumi both found the net in their previous two friendlies to give a good early impression at the club.
Tampines’ other new import is South Korean utility Son Yong-chan, who will be no stranger to Global, having spent the past few years playing against them in the United Football League for Ceres-Negros.
The Stags may have also lost Singapore international Hafiz Abu Sujad to Thai second-tier outfit BBCU. But their prospects of success in 2017 will be bolstered by the arrivals of established Singapore internationals such as Khairul Amri, Madhu Mohana and Daniel Bennett.
While Global will be enjoying home advantage on Tuesday, the Stags are far more experienced on the continental stage, and will start the game as slight favourites.
Still, Tampines will be aware they can ill afford complacency against opponents who boast a plethora of Philippines internationals, including forward Misagh Bahadoran, centre-back Amani Aguinaldo and midfielder Paul Mulders.
“Firstly, we will have to focus on the game against Global FC,” Akbar told ESPN FC.
“Even if we do beat them, we will then face another strong team in Brisbane Roar, followed by one of the best sides from China [Shanghai Shenhua].
“We will definitely be going into every game looking to compete and we’ll just think about taking it step by step.”
Elimination at any stage of the Champions League qualifiers will see Tampines immediately enter the AFC Cup, where they have been drawn alongside Vietnamese giants Ha Noi, Malaysia Super League side Felda United and Philippines’ Ceres-Negros, in Group G.