By Jonas Terrado
Ceres-Negros coach Risto Vidakovic is realistic about his team’s chances in next week’s AFC Champions League playoff against FC Tokyo at the Ajinomoto Stadium in the Japanese capital.
The Busmen are heavy underdogs going into Tuesday’s match for a spot in the Champions League group stage with the host Gas Men coming off a second-place finish in last year’s J-League, one of the biggest leagues in Asia.
“Another very hard game, even harder than this one,” said Vidakovic, whose team won two preliminary matches, including a shock 1-0 win over Thai League 1 side Port FC in Bangkok.
“For us, it’s an experience for the team. We always fight to win, we’re trying to win and we’re tactically working on that,” the Serbian coach added.
It will be the second time that Ceres made it to the playoff phase of the Champions League.
Ceres fell 2-0 to Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian two years ago.
No Filipino club has ever reached the Champions League group stage, thus getting another gigantic win will meet a lot for the Bacolod outfit.
But Vidakovic, who steered Ceres to the Philippines Football League and Copa Paulino Alcantara titles last year, said the odds are heavily stacked against them.
“But sometimes we have to be realistic, especially for the ASEAN countries,” Vidakovic said. “It’s not easy to qualify because you play one game outside against very strong opponents.
“The budget’s maybe seven times higher, but for us it’s an experience and we’re going there to compete.”