V.League preview: Race for top spot heats up

The dominance of Ho Chi Minh City FC in the V.League table is in serious threat as the southern team are expected to have a tough trip to Quang Ninh Coal on matchday 10 this weekend. Meanwhile, second-placed Hanoi FC are highly excited after having qualified for the 2019 AFC Cup’s ASEAN zonal semifinals.

Hanoi FC's Quang Hai in action during their match against Singapore's Tampines Rovers in the AFC Cup on May 15, 2019.
Hanoi FC's Quang Hai in action during their match against Singapore's Tampines Rovers in the AFC Cup on May 15, 2019.

>>> Vietnamese clubs advance to AFC Cup’s ASEAN zonal semifinals

HCM City had the chance to extend their lead over Hanoi FC to four points last weekend, as the reigning champions suffered an unexpected 1-4 defeat to Thanh Hoa. However, Chung Hae-seong’s side could not capitalise on their home-field advantage to bag the full three points against Quang Nam FC, only managing to score a disappointing 1-1 draw.

After the tie, HCM City will continue to face a tough challenge as they play guest to Quang Ninh Coal, who have shown stable form this season and are considered an annoying opponent for those in the leading group. Phan Thanh Hung’s troops have now gone four home games unbeaten with three wins and one draw. Alongside the home-field advantage, Quang Ninh Coal also have a better head-to-head record against HCM City, wining eight, drawing one and losing just one in their previous 10 meetings. Given that fact, it promises to be a stormy journey for Chung Hae-seong and his players to Quang Ninh’s Cua Ong Stadium.

If they fail to clinch three points against Quang Ninh Coal, HCM City will possibly lose their top spot to Hanoi FC, who are now in ecstatic mood after having booked a place in the AFC Cup’s ASEAN zonal semifinals. The defending title holders only have to take on under-form SHB Da Nang, currently in eighth position, this weekend.

V.League preview: Race for top spot heats up ảnh 1

Hoang Anh Gia Lai (in white) are hoped to continue their impressive run under the dynasty of new manager Lee Tae-hoon.

At Pleiku Stadium, Hoang Anh Gia Lai are aiming towards a victory against ninth-placed Becamex Binh Duong, who are showing signs of exhaustion due to the tight schedule in both V.League and the AFC Cup. The guests are no longer demonstrating the brilliant form as previously. In addition, it is difficult for them to get their best fitness after a long-distance travelling journey. This will be a good opportunity for newly appointed manager Lee Tae-hoon to build on his perfect start with Hoang Anh Gia Lai following a three-game unbeaten run of two wins and one draw after his first three games in charge.

At Vinh Stadium, third-placed Song Lam Nghe An are expected to make light work of bottom-placed Sanna Khanh Hoa BVN, who are desperately struggling to avoid relegation at the end of the season. Hosting a Khanh Hoa side currently in crisis, Nguyen Duc Thang’s troops undoubtedly do not want to overlook such an ideal chance to win the full three points to further consolidate their position in the title race.

Another noticeable clash of matchday 10 is Thanh Hoa FC’s trip to Hai Phong’s Lach Tray stadium. The meeting promises to be full of excitement and thrills as Thanh Hoa recently stunned reigning champions Hanoi FC by a wide margin, which was their second win in a row. It can be seen that once the financial issue is addressed, Thanh Hoa FC can become an annoying opponent for any team.

Newly promoted Viettel will visit sixth-placed Saigon FC with a difficult mission of winning three points to improve their current 11th position. Meanwhile, 13th-placed Quang Nam FC are hoping to tap into their home-field advantage to beat 12th-placed Nam Dinh FC to move out of the relegation group.