Hougang United, Geylang to play Philippines sides in Singapore Cup
S.League outfits Hougang United and Geylang International face tough tasks for progression in the 2017 Singapore Cup after being drawn against accomplished Philippines sides.
In the preliminary round, Hougang will meet Ceres-Negros while Home are to duel with Global-Cebu, with matches held between May 29 and June 4.
Both Philippines Football League (PFL) sides showed their quality by topping their AFC Cup groups last month to progress into the competition's zonal semifinals.
Ceres made their debut in the Singapore Cup in 2016, and narrowly missed out on the final after a 5-3 aggregate loss to Tampines Rovers.
Hougang midfielder Fabian Kwok, part of the Stags' squad who faced up to the Busmen last year, knows the magnitude of the task for his current side.
"Watching them play in the AFC Cup, they are definitely a more-than-decent team," the 28-year-old said at Tuesday's draw at the Ocean Financial Centre. "It's not going to be easy for us, but we have to see this as a good opportunity to play such good teams.
"If we have the desire to qualify for the AFC Cup in the future, we have to be look forward to such games instead of fearing the prospect."
It will be Global's fourth appearance in the Cup, having been involved in the 2013, 2015 and 2016 editions.
The People's Club had faced Geylang in the quarterfinals two years ago, emerging 4-2 winners over two legs.
With Global taking on Home United in the AFC Cup zonal two-legged semis on May 16 and 30, Geylang coach Hasrin Jailani will be taking the opportunity to assess the PFL side.
"For sure, that will be a good opportunity for me to analyse the opponent further," said the former Singapore international. "It'll be very tough against such a good team, but we just have to prepare ourselves mentally and tactically for the task.
"It's a one-off Cup game so anything can happen. It's important for us to do well because this is our best chance to win a trophy and qualify for the AFC Cup next year."
Balestier Khalsa and Warriors FC have it slightly easier though, as they will be facing Cambodian Premier League sides Nagaworld and Boeung Ket Angkor, respectively.
This is the invitees' second appearances in the Cup. Nagaworld came and lost in the first round in 2016, while Boeung Ket also fell in their first hurdle in 2013.
Meanwhile, defending champions Albirex Niigata (S), who won the tournament for the last two years, join Tampines, Brunei DPMM and Home United with direct passage to the quarterfinals.
Garena Young Lions, effectively the Singapore under-22 side, will sit out the tournament, due to their preparations for August's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Home are the record winners of the Cup, with six triumphs, but have not won it since 2013.
The 2017 Singapore Cup final is scheduled for Nov. 25 at Jalan Besar Stadium.
2017 Singapore Cup
Hougang United vs. Ceres-Negros (Philippines)
Balestier Khalsa vs. Nagaworld (Cambodia)
Geylang International vs. Global-Cebu (Philippines)
Warriors FC vs. Boeung Ket Angkor (Cambodia)
Matches to be held between May 29 and June 4
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT