The Cambodian domestic league resumes for matchweek 17 this weekend after a difficult international break with the top six all in action as they vie for only four play-off places.
Six-time champions Phnom Penh Crown are facing a crucial evening meeting with second-placed Nagaworld at RSN Stadium tomorrow.
A single point separates the two teams, and with only six games of regular league action remaining, getting one over their play-off chasing rivals will be foremost in the minds of both coaches.
South African Shane Booysen is expected to lead out Crown for what could be a pivotal match for Cambodia’s most decorated club side, who suffered a highly disappointing 2016 campaign.
Also tomorrow evening, an equally intriguing encounter sees league leaders Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng welcome last season’s defending champions Boeung Ket to the Svay Rieng Stadium for a 6pm clash.
Fourth-placed Boeung Ket, this season playing without the services of mercurial Chan Vathanaka, have struggled for form and are in danger of losing their play-off spot to Cambodian Tiger who sit in fifth, only two points behind Hao Socheat’s title winners.
Tiger travel to Army Stadium to face Ministry of National Defence in the day’s remaining match.
On Sunday afternoon, league stragglers and bottom of the table side Kirivong Soksenchey will look to register their first win of the season at their 17th attempt as they meet Western FC at the Takeo Stadium.
An hour later, 11th-placed CMAC have a chance to climb out of the danger zone against Asia Euro United, who sit just three points above them in eighth.
Weekend action is wrapped up in a Sunday, 6pm, kick-off between Electricite du Cambodge and General Commissary of National Police at the Army Stadium.
In other Cambodian football news, the Football Federation of Cambodia have announced that Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium will host matches in the impending AFC Under-19 Championship qualifiers. China, the Philippines and Myanmar join hosts Cambodia in group G.
Kicking off on October 24, matches will wrap up only four days later.
The Federation are still to announce who will take charge of the Cambodian youngsters, although senior team coach Leonardo Vitorino has reacted defiantly to recent criticism of his stewardship of the national team after Tuesday’s 5-0 thumping by Vietnam.
“I WILL NEVER GIVE UP!! Before I come to Cambodia I know that this was the results and the history at past. I was hired to do a long-term job,” said the Brazilian in a defiant social media post yesterday.
“I believe in the future of Cambodia football! And I will do what is right always so that the results will come in the future. If you do not believe me, I believe in the future of football in this country.
“Whoever believes come, walk with me and watch the League closely, the training and the games. I work for Cambodia and I will not give up improving the future of football in this country that has welcomed me so well!
“In order to achieve a great achievement, we must go through the difficult paths of life, and walking together everything be easier.”
Vitorino, appointed in March and taking over from Korean Lee-Tea-hoon, was trumpeted as an exciting coach who was well-equipped to take Cambodia to a new plateau ahead of the 2023 Phnom Penh SEA Games.
However, as senior coach he has registered a mere one win in competitive action. In seven games, the team have conceded a remarkable 22 goals and scored only five.