Male: New Radiant SC coach Velizar Popov has backed the Maldivian champions to step up to the challenge against Hong Kong’s Sunray Cave JC Sun Hei, shrugging off the notion that his side go into Tuesday’s AFC Cup Group F opener as underdogs.
“Sun Hei are favourites maybe on paper because their league is better than us,” said the Bulgarian (pictured), whose side recorded an emphatic 10-1 win over 2012 AFC Cup qualifiers VB Addu in last week’s domestic season opener.
“Maybe one of the foreigners from Sun Hei is paid more than us, but it’s only on paper. On the pitch, it is 11 against 11.
“We respect them, but we are not afraid. I know it is going to be a difficult game as international games are played at another level.”
New Radiant won the Dhivehi League title last season with an unbeaten record to earn a return to the AFC Cup for first time since 2008, while Hong Kong Senior Shield winners Sun Hei last featured in the continental club a year earlier. Both teams made it to the semi-finals in 2005, with New Radiant losing out to eventual champions Al Faysali from Jordan and Sun Hei bowing out to Lebanon’s Nejmeh.
Sun Hei have not enjoyed the best of starts to their latest domestic campaign with Chiu Chung Man’s side currently sitting at the foot of the Hong Kong First Division table.
However, they will have been buoyed by picking up their second win of the season prior to their trip to the Maldives, with Leung Tsz Chun scoring twice in a 3-2 victory over Southern.
“We are confident about the match [against New Radiant],” said Sun Hei team manager Ngai Chung Fai.
“We only got the information about the opponent from their website, but we will keep in mind that they are on the top of their domestic league.”
Myanmar’s Yangon United already lead the way in Group F after kicking off the campaign with a 3-0 win over Indonesia’s Persibo last week.