Minutes after Ceres-Negros FC’s elimination in the AFC Cup at the hands of Home United FC, Head Coach Risto Vidakovic will focus more on recovery for his players for the next season, which could mean that the Bacolod-based club might not go full strength at any of their Copa Paulino Alcantara fixtures.
In an interview in Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore, Coach Risto emphasised the grinding schedule his team has undergone in the past two fruitful and milestone laden seasons. And when asked of the coming domestic cup campaign, the mentor of the recently crowned back-to-back Philippines Football Football League Champion was non-committal in going all out for the Paulino Alcantara trophy, as his team aim to prioritise more on recovery and preparation for the next season.
“We had a very long year. My players didn’t have rest maybe for two years (running). I think some players, I might have to let them go (on a break) as they have some problems with injuries and I want to give them enough time to recover for next season.”
The gaffer also made it clear that this season’s main objectives have already been met, so his team are going to focus more on looking ahead to the next year’s series of competitions.
“For us the most important thing is already done. We have the league (title) there (in the Philippines) and we are qualified for the AFC Champions League (qualification playoffs) next year.
“Of course we will compete in the cup but it’s not the most important thing for us now,” added Coach Risto.
With these statements, one can only speculate that Ceres might introduce frequent player rotations in the upcoming cup campaign as they start to provide ample “off” days for many of their key players.
— The Philippine Azkals (@TheAzkalsPH) August 8, 2018
Although the looming approach by The Busmen could lessen their chances of winning the domestic cup, on a bigger picture, it could open up opportunities that may strengthen the squad in the long run, as new signings Curt Dizon, Blake Powell, Paul Mulders and Roland Muller could be used more to be integrated fully to the Ceres system and style of playing. Also, more involvement in several matches by local hero Joshua Dutosme will be something to look forward to.
70′ GOAL Ceres-Negros. Dutosme returns a clearance towards Reichelt who heads in the equalizer. JPV 1-1 CER
— Ceres-Negros FC (@CeresNegrosFC) June 2, 2018
From the oppositions’ point of view, given Ceres are considering the cup not as top priority, it might open up chances for other clubs to use the Paulino Alcantara Cup as a means to book a place into next year’s AFC Cup competition. Also, it might lead to football fans seeing a different club achieve history as the first winners of the nation’s cup, in the same way that Ceres-Negros already achieved such massive moment in winning the PFL’s maiden season.
In the end, despite the words coming from Coach Risto himself that Ceres-Negros plan to ease things off a bit for the cup, the squad could still come out as serious contenders due to their system and style of play, and their ever progressing culture of excellence, coupled with their ambition overall as a football club – winning the “domestic double” is still very much a possibility for one of Philippine football’s history-makers.