Odds stacked against United City

Originally published by Daily Tribune Online


United City FC (UCFC) will bank on its underdog mentality when it sees action in the AFC Champions League this April.


UCFC team owner Eric Gottschalk said they are bracing for a tough task ahead entering their second straight appearance in the biggest club competition in Asia.


He said the team will be ready despite missing the services of former United City stars Bienvenido Marañon and Amin Nazari.


The four-time Philippines Football League champion club is bunched in Group G with powerhouses BG Pathum United of Thailand, Jeonnam Dragons of South Korea and Melbourne City of Australia.


“It’s a very balanced and competitive group and I’m personally looking forward to the matchup with BG Panthum from Thailand as the Thai league level is the level we are realistically striving to achieve,” Gottschalk told the Daily Tribune yesterday.


“We are re-grouping and, therefore, will be considered as underdogs in this group. But in football anything can happen.”


UCFC hurdled the challenges of the pandemic as it became the first Filipino club alongside Kaya FC to compete in the prestigious tourney last year.


The squad registered its first Champions League victory with a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Chinese team Beijing Guoan FC and finished third in Group I behind Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale and South Korea’s Daegu FC.


UCFC, however, failed to sustain its momentum as it skipped the 2021 Copa Paulino Alcantara due to internal issues followed by the departure of Marañon and Nazari early this year.


The 34-year-old Marañon, who is the AFC Cup’s leading scorer with 35 goals, ended his colorful seven-year stint with the club since 2015.


The naturalized Filipino striker has yet to announce his next destination while Nazari has recently inked a deal with Thai League squad PT Prachuap FC.


Still, Gottschalk said they are now in the process of signing new players who could help skipper Stephan Schrock, Mark Hartmann, Hikaru Menigishi and Anthony Pinthus.


Kaya FC, meanwhile, will also seek to punch a slot in the Champions League when it faces a team from Australia in the qualifying playoffs on 8 March.

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