Kaya-Iloilo eyes a return trip to the group stage of the AFC Champions League when it battles Sydney FC in a qualifying round match Tuesday, March 8 at the Jubilee Oval in Sydney, Australia.

The Copa Paulino Alcantara winners will come into the match with a tough task of advancing to Asia’s premier club competition for the second straight year with the Australian side, second place in last season’s A-League regular season.

“We know we’re up against one of the strongest sides with multiple league titles under their belt, but we’ve done our homework,” said Kaya coach Graham Harvey, back after calling the shots in last year’s ACL campaign.

“We’ve got some coaching staff that have worked through Australia as well, so we did follow the A-League very closely and we’ve been able to get ourselves footage of what we need. We’re very confident in our plan, but we’re also very respectful of who Sydney are.”

A win will send Kaya to Group H of the Champions League next month in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Japan’s Yokohama F Marinos and Hoang Anh Gia Lia from the host country.

Defeat, however, relegates Kaya to the second-tier AFC Cup where it will take on Indonesia’s Bali United, Malaysia’s Kedah Darul Aman and Cambodia’s Visakha in Group G.

The match was supposed to be Kaya’s first step towards the ACL, but later reduced to a group stage decider after Chinese side Changchun Yatai withdrew from playing the playoff round.

Confidence seems high as Kaya made huge signings in the offseason, acquiring former Azkals Development Team players Jarvey Gayoso, Sandro Reyes, Oskari Kekkonen and Mar Diano, returning Robert Lopez Mendy and Jesse Curran.

It will be interesting to see how they’ll mix it up with holdovers Jovin Bedic, Daizo Horikoshi, Audie Menzi, Carlyle Mitchell, Simone Rota, Shirmar Felongco, Arnel Amita and Eric Giganto.

Young Zach Banzon, who impressed in last year’s Champions League, now takes over as the club’s primary goalkeeper following the retirement of veteran Michael Casas.

Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2022/03/08/kaya-iloilo-guns-for-acl-berth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kaya-iloilo-guns-for-acl-berth)