V.League Matchday 4 preview: All eyes on Ho Chi Minh City derby

V.League action will resume on Matchday 4, with all eyes on the Ho Chi Minh (HCM) City derby as title frontrunners HCM City FC host Saigon FC at Thong Nhat Stadium on Friday.

The derby between Ho Chi Minh City and Saigon FC takes centre stage on Matchday 4.
The derby between Ho Chi Minh City and Saigon FC takes centre stage on Matchday 4.

Obviously, with many quality players in their lineup, HCM City FC are considered to have the upper hand in the upcoming confrontation. However, given the tension of a derby, surprises can definitely occur.

The title race leaders head into the match far from in their best form after months off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chung Hae-seong’s side suffered two consecutive scoreless draws (within 90 minutes) against minnows SHB Da Nang (National Cup Round of 16) and Hai Phong FC (V.League Matchday 3). The goalless tie with Hai Phong deprived HCM City of the chance to further strengthen their grip at the top of the table, as they are now only just above Viettel FC and Song Lam Nghe An on goal difference.

Given that fact, Chung’s troops will surely do their best to bag the full three points against their city neighbours. HCM City are expecting to welcome the return of striker Nguyen Cong Phuong for Friday’s derby after he completed his engagement ceremony with girlfriend Vien Minh on June 7. The absence of Cong Phuong was also among the reasons for the team’s deadlock in attack during their trip to Hai Phong last week.

Cong Phuong’s skillful dribbles which create space for his teammates have been a powerful weapon for HCM City in this year’s campaign so far. There is no doubt that with the presence of the Nghe An-born striker, Chung Hae-seong will be more confident in deploying his favourite attacking style.

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The return of favourite striker Nguyen Cong Phuong (L) is expected to strengthen Ho Chi Minh City's attacking power and efficiency.

Saigon FC are also showing an unstable run of form. After delivering an impressive display with four points after the first two matchdays, manager Vu Tien Thanh’s troops floundered , conceding a humiliating 1-2 defeat against First Division newbies Ba Ria Vung Tau in the National Cup, followed by a disappointing 0-0 home draw against Becamex Binh Duong.

Instability on the leadership board, with chairman Vu Tien Thanh concurrently serving as manager, has prevented Saigon FC from maintaining their form. They are still in need of a real tactician to look towards greater goals in the 2020 season.

With the tension and ferocity of a derby, no team wants to suffer defeat in the upcoming confrontation. The June 12 derby promises to be an extremely exciting and dramatic match.

Meanwhile, three successive losses have left SHB Da Nang at bottom of the table with zero points. Manager Le Huynh Duc’s future will be plunged into doubt if he suffers another defeat in the central region derby against Quang Nam FC tomorrow (June 11). The 2012 champions are displaying extremely poor form this season, having scored only two goals after five matches.

In contrast, Quang Nam FC received a timely psychological boost after their National Cup defeat against Hong Linh Ha Tinh by beating Thanh Hoa FC at home for their first V.League 2020 win. Inspired by the victory, Vu Hong Viet’s side are confidently looking towards securing a positive results in their Thursday trip to Da Nang’s Hoa Xuan Stadium.

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Hanoi FC (in purple) remain one of the title favourites this season.

Reigning champions Hanoi FC, who possess the most powerful attacking lineup in V.League, are expected to make light work of newly promoted Hong Linh Ha Tinh, while third-placed Song Lam Nghe An also emerge as the three-point favourites against second-from-bottom Thanh Hoa FC.

In the remaining matches, Becamex Binh Duong, second-placed Viettel FC and Hoang Anh Gia Lai will play host to Hai Phong FC, Quang Ninh Coal and Nam Dinh FC, respectively.