V.League preview: Who can stop Hanoi FC?

Friday, 2019-08-16 13:30:00
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Hanoi FC (in blue) beat SHB Da Nang 3-2 on home soil in the first leg of the 2019 V.League.
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NDO – Reigning champions Hanoi FC have produced a safe gap with other competitors in the V.League title race, staying on top of the table with five points clear. Given their extremely impressive unbeaten run in the last nine matchdays (W5 D4), it seems that Chu Dinh Nghiem’s side are unlikely to drop three points in their Matchday 21 trip to poor-form SHB Da Nang this weekend.

Despite wasting a number of opportunities in their first-leg meeting, Hanoi FC still managed to secure a thrilling 3-2 triumph at home against the 2012 title holders. The Friday return to Hoa Xuan Stadium is predicted not to be so tough for the capital team, but undoubtedly they will deploy their strongest lineup aimed towards a victory to further solidify their top spot.

The three-point goal is quite within the reach of Chu Dinh Nghiem’s troops, as some of their attacking pillars, including Pape Omar Faye and Nguyen Van Quyet, have been in brilliant form recently.

Striker Van Quyet netted twice against Thanh Hoa last weekend, extending his tally by eight goals and three assists for Hanoi FC so far this month. Meanwhile, Pape Omar also blasted a brace in the same match to top the season’s scoring tally with 12 goals, one goal clear of former Hanoi teammate Hoang Vu Samson.

In contrast to Hanoi’s flying form, SHB Da Nang’s recent results have failed to live up to their fans’ expectation. In their last two league matches, Le Huynh Duc’s side stumbled to a humiliating 0-1 loss against bottom-place Sanna Khanh Hoa BVN and a disappointing 1-1 draw with Quang Ninh Coal. With their current form, there will be little chance for the central team to produce a surprise in their Matchday 21 clash against title-favourites Hanoi FC.

After a bitter 2-3 home defeat against newly promoted Viettel, Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) are at high risk of suffering another blow as they visit Becamex Binh Duong this weekend. Last season, HAGL were thrashed 4-1 in their Binh Duong trip, and it is likely that a similar result will come to them later today as they are presently in bad form.

After 20 matchdays, HAGL are currently sitting 11th with 23 points, only above Saigon FC and Hai Phong FC on auxiliaries and just three points above bottom-place Khanh Hoa. Obviously, this is not a safe gap, because even a draw could push Lee Tae-hoon’s side into the danger zone.

The six remaining V.League matches, starting with the away clash against Binh Duong this afternoon, will all be the final games for HAGL. Each win in these clashes holds the six-point significance, and each loss will bring them one step closer to relegation.

Despite playing on home soil in the first leg, HAGL could only manage to secure a 1-1 draw against Becamex Binh Duong. The second-leg meeting is predicted to be a mountain to climb for them, as the hosts are focusing all of their energy on the V.League front after being recently eliminated from the AFC Cup arena by Hanoi FC.

As for title candidates Ho Chi Minh (HCM) City, Chung Hae-seong’s side are now trailing five points behind rivals Hanoi FC in the title race. Unless they promptly rediscover their form on Matchday 21, the southern team will float farther from the goal of lifting the V.League trophy after nearly 20 years of waiting.

On Saturday, HCM City will host third-place Quang Ninh Coal, who have performed poorly over recent matchdays. After a 1-0 win over Viettel on Matchday 16, Phan Thanh Hung’s troops lost one and drew three in the following four games. The guests’ unstable form is the foundation for HCM City to confidently look towards the full three points on home soil.

Ahead of the clash, HCM City received good news as midfielder Tran Phi Son returned to training from injury. The presence of Phi Son is expected to give more power to the southern side’s attacking lineup.

In the other fixtures of Matchday 21, fifth-place Nam Dinh and seventh-place Viettel will play host to Quang Nam FC and Saigon FC, respectively, on August 17, while Hai Phong FC and Song Lam Nghe An will travel to Thanh Hoa FC and Sanna Khanh Hoa on Sunday (Aug. 18).

VAN TOAN