All eyes are on Vinh Stadium today, as hosts Song Lam Nghe An entertain defending champions Ha Noi T&T in the 21st round of the V-League.
While Nghe An try their best to enter the top three, T&T will strengthen their top position which is threatened by Becamex Binh Duong, which are closing in fast.
Two-time champions Binh Duong are in second place, just one point behind T&T. They will have an easier match tomorrow on home soil against bottom-placed Hung Vuong An Giang.
The season was expected to be a failure for Nghe An since they was deep in the second half of the ranking table after the first leg of the tournament.
However, the former champions found their touch in six recent games with four wins and two draws, and jumped to No 5 with 30 points.
A win on home turf today would help them close in on their target. They have six points less than Thanh Hoa who are currently at third place and will play struggling Dong Tam Long An today.
The hosts’ belief in a win is understandable as they have never lost to T&T in their 10 meets in five recent seasons.
“Apart from proving our traditional values in this match we also want to beat a young team which have had strong support recently,” said Nghe An coach Nguyen Huu Thang.
Another reason is the cash the players will receive in case they beat the champions.
According to a source close to the club, the highest ever bonus of VND600 million (US$28,500) will be shared by the players. It is a more than twice what they get now. .
The third driving force is their great fan base that plans to turn Vinh Stadium into a sea of red with the national flags.
Nghe An are very popular, with their active fan club comprising thousands of members, always bursting with love for the team.
On their website, they have called fans to gather tomorrow with more than 5,000 flags to be distributed free. Meanwhile, a giant flag will also be unfurled at the stadium in a parade ahead of the match.
Nghe An fans have also asked for help from Nam Dinh football lovers, who will bring a drum band travelling hundreds of kilometres to cheer their team today.
On the visiting side, coach Phan Thanh Hung has his reasons to go for a win.
This season, T&T played better on away soil with seven wins, one draw and only two losses.
And according to Hung, his team often messed up their chances in unbelievable situations, but they knew how to overcome difficulties. The typical example is the 2-2 draw to Nghe An in the late round eight match last week.
They were led 1-2 during the whole game but found their match in the last seconds of additional time.
“I tell my players and encourage myself that we feel happy only when facing difficulty and grabbing a win,” said Hung.
In other activities this weekend, SHB Da Nang will meet Hai Phong and Quang Ninh Coal welcomes Dong Nai and Hoang Anh Gia Lai host Quang Nam. — VNS