Football: Under-strength Balestier face testing AFC Cup tie against Kitchee

Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic hopes his players will draw confidence from a 2-2 draw with Maldives' New Radiant.
Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic hopes his players will draw confidence from a 2-2 draw with Maldives' New Radiant.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - Balestier Khalsa are set for a tough challenge when they face Hong Kong side Kitchee in Tuesday's Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup game at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

In the first match of their AFC Cup campaign two weeks ago, Balestier drew 2-2 with Maldives outfit New Radiant, while Kitchee beat Kaya FC of the Philippines 1-0 to top group F.

The Tigers have been weakened as two of their foreign imports Emir Lotinac and Robert Pericic are injured. Pericic, who scored nine goals in the S-League last year, is out for a long period and has to undergo a knee surgery.

But Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic hope that his players will draw confidence from their previous AFC game. They were denied a win thanks to a stoppage-time equaliser from substitute Waheed Rilwan for the host.

Kraljevic said: "We almost won the last game. We should have won it but (nonetheless) it was a good result in Maldives. It showed that we can win if we take our chances.

Kitchee have more experience in the continental tournament. They have taken part in the tournament five times, and qualified for the quarter-finals last year.

Balestier made their debut in the competition last year, winning just one of six matches and did not progress past the group stage.

But Kraljevic knows that a victory at home will boost his side's chances of qualifying for the round of 16 for the first time.

He said: "Even a draw is not going to be enough. We need to win our home games to stand a good chance to progress (to the next round)."