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Preliminary Round 1: Team Profiles

Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Ceres Negros

Kuala Lumpur: With just a week to go till the road to the 2018 AFC Champions League Group Stage begins, we look at the four teams taking part in the opening round of qualifying.

Shan United vs Ceres Negros

4:00pm, January 16

Taunggyi Stadium, Taunggyi

Ceres Negros - Philippines

2017 was a hugely successful year for Ceres Negros Football Club. The Busmen were not only crowned inaugural AFC Cup ASEAN Zone champions but also lifted the inaugural Philippines Football League title in December.

Participating in the qualifying stages of the AFC Champions League for the first time, the Filipino side have added to an impressive core of players that already includes Philipines veterans such as Stephan Schrock, Kevin Ingreso and OJ Porteria.

Prolific striker Takumi Uesato has signed up from JPV Marikina along with teammate and defender Sean Kane, while former Real Betis and Real Zaragoza goalkeeper Toni Doblas is a big-name replacement for the outgoing Roland Muller.

Shan United - Myanmar

Previously appearing at the now defunct AFC President's Cup in 2008 and 2009, Myanmar's Shan United have bounced back into continental competition in style after a domestic league and cup double last season.

Shan United chalked up back-to-back fifth place finishes in the Myanmar National League in 2015 and 2016, but in the 2017 championship they went on a tear, losing just two games, to pip Yangon United to the title by two points.

While Shan United boast a wealth of Myanmar internationals, the stand-out is national team goalkeeper and captain Thiha Sithu who kept 14 clean sheets in their league-winning campaign, while Nigerian striker Christopher Chizoba top-scored with 15 goals.

Bali United vs Tampines Rovers

7:30pm, January 16 

Kapten I Wayan Dipta Stadium, Bali

Bali United - Indonesia

Bali United may have only existed in its current entity since 2015, but the club originally formed as Putra Samarinda 29 years ago has already enjoyed a successful spell since moving to the island province, finishing runners-up in Liga 1 last year.

Indonesian AFC Asian Cup legend Widodo Putro is at the helm and the team includes several noteworthy names from the national team including former J.League player Irfan Bachdim and 2016 AFF Championship hero Stefano Lilipaly.

One notable absentee is Dutch forward Sylvano Comvalius, who top scored in the 2017 Liga 1 season with a phenomenal 37 goals from 34 games, a tally that secured him a move to Thailand's Suphanburi. How well Bali United can replace him will be crucial.

Tampines Rovers - Singapore

A third consecutive runners-up finish in the S.League secured Tampines Rovers a place in the AFC Champions League Preliminary Round 1 for the fourth time, and the Singaporeans will be looking to improve on last year's elimination at the first hurdle.

The Stags endured a difficult 2017 AFC Cup campaign following their Preliminary Round 1 defeat to Global FC. The highs of their home-and-away double over Malaysia's FELDA United were somewhat dampened by heavy defeats to Ceres and Ha Noi FC of Vietnam.

Nevertheless, Tampines will be looking to kick off 2018 the right way. Canadian Jordan Webb, heralded as one of the best wingers in Singapore, returns for a second spell at the club, while Japanese midfielder Ryutaro Megumi has been retained as has legendary forward Khairul Amri.