Most of the football world’s eyes will be on Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge this weekend to see whether Liverpool can tighten its grip on what would be its first Premier League title in 24 years.
However, 10,000 km away in Phnom Penh, the attention of Metfone C-League fans will be equally fixated on the Olympic Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday for a decisive top-of-the-table match between Phnom Penh Crown and NagaCorp.
Both teams are equal with 19 points, with Crown leading on goal difference, while Boeung Ket Rubber Field remain hot on the heels with 18 points in third.
The game is likely to be tight, with Crown and NagaCorp possessing the best defensive records in the league, letting in only three and five goals respectively in eight games.
Crown’s Swiss head coach Sam Schweingruber remains confident that his team has enough talent in its ranks to overcome the NagaWorld-backed club.
“I don’t really think Naga are the biggest threat to us in the league. They have a lot of experience, especially defensively so we’ll have to be at our best to score and that’s something we’re looking at this week,” he said.
“Against Naga is never easy, it’s always a good battle. The other team is full of players with experience and quality but we believe our team on paper, along with being the younger and more energetic should hopefully give us the advantage.”
NagaCorp’s head coach, Prak Sovannara, was unavailable for comment and will be absent from Saturday’s game due to his selection for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) “Coach Asia” program in Malaysia. Sovannara will return to the dugout next week.
Despite boasting some of the league’s biggest names, the most developed youth academy and a FIFA-grassroots accredited head coach, Crown has not won the C-League since 2011 or the Hun Sen Cup since 2009.
Indeed, they were controversially dumped out of the Cup this year by Build Bright United, who went on to lose against National Police in the final.
Crown will go into Saturday’s game with some injury doubts, including center-backs Tony Obadin, who required surgery after having a tooth smashed out in training, and Kok Boris, who is recovering from a motorbike crash over Khmer New Year.
Both players have been integral to Crown’s solidity at the back and Mr. Schweingruber said he was hopeful both would be fit by Saturday evening.
Less than halfway through the season, Mr. Schweingruber believes victory is within grasp.
“It’s still wide open with so many games to go. But we’ve shown in recent games our organization, our class, so I think that if we continue to progress we have a very good chance.”
© 2014, George Wright. All rights reserved.