Kitchee target 9th league title next season

Defending treble winners Kitchee SC hosted their first press conference to reveal their plans. After a season of tremendous success, the Bluewaves set a clear goal for 2017-18: winning the league championship for the ninth time in club history.

In this case, Kitchee would tie with Seiko and be ranked second behind South China in the all time league winners list.

But of course the league will hardly be enough, meaning, Kitchee will also target to win as much cup silverware as possible.

Although head coach Alex Chu is confident, his club has to handle a big number of games, both in local competitions as well as the AFC Champions League, which will certainly cause a tough challenge. He revealed the club will follow two different approaches. In the first half, around 20 to 22 players will be used to handle league games and Senior Shields, with some fringe players being loaned out to keep their form. During the second half, when the ACL kicks in, some of the loaned-out players will return to help the club with the tighter fixture schedule.

Lucas Silva, Chris Annan, Alex Chu, Wilson Ng, Paulinho (left to right)

Kitchee also significantly upgraded their offense during the off-season. In May the club signed Tai Po striker Lucas Silva and meanwhile both Chris Annan and Paulo ‘Paulinho’ Robspierry, who had a short spell with Shenzhen FC across the border, returned as well. As HKSAR passport holders they would both be eligible to play in the ACL, which will start in February 2018.

Some other players continue to be loaned out, notably Jordi Tarres, Emmet Wan, Li Ngai-hoi, and Fernando Recio. In addition, promising youngsters such as Harima Hirokane, Law Tsz-chun and Cheng Chin-lung join temporarily Dreams FC, while Kitchee also invited six youth players to join the training of the first team. Spanish striker Rufino left for Malaysian club FC Selangor, while Sham Kwok-keung departed for personal reasons.

As far as on-field strategies are concerned, the club will continue to adopt a 3-4-3 formation, following its significant improvement in the second half of last season. Chu stated that only minor adjustments would be made depending on the individual team match-ups.

Official training start in Shek Mun

Kitchee will also continue to host their home matches at Mong Kok Stadium, however, for the ACL group stage they would like to move to the considerably bigger Hong Kong Stadium in Causeway Bay to attract a bigger crowd for what should be popular games.

For preseason preparations, the squad is set to travel to  South Korea at the end of July for three friendly matches, facing Incheon United, Bucheon FC, and Hwasung FC. A few more games are being scheduled tentatively and will be announced on a later date.

When asked which team would be the most threatening next season, Chu acknowledged that clubs such as Southern, Eastern and R&F have been upgrading, but he could not see any of them being able to beat the defending league champions.

After the press conference, the team held their first training of the year at the Jockey Club Kitchee Centre in Shek Mun. All players were present with the exception of Hong Kong team members who were given a later report date (July 17).

Full squad
* = foreign players
# = domestic players (still count as foreigners in ACL and cannot represent Hong Kong)

1 Wang Zhenpeng
23 Guo Jianqiao
30 Wong Tsz-ho

3 Dani Cancela*
5 Helio
12 Lo Kwan-yee
21 Tong Kin-man
33 Yuen Chun-hei
37 Chan Ka-shing
41 Chau Hin-shing
38 Kim Dong-jin*
90 Kim Bong-jin*

6 Lam Zhi-gin, Andreas#
10 Lam Ka-wai
16 Jared Lum#
19 Huang Yang
20 Matt Lam#
32 Kristian Vadocz*
34 Barak Braunshtain#
35 Mark Swainston#
39 Tsang Pak-hin
48 Yu Wing-hong

7 Fernando*
8 Alex Akande
9 Lucas Silva*
11 Sandro
15 Chris Annan
17 Paulinho
36 Robert Stamp#
67 Sebastian Buddle#

Loaned out to other teams
Jordi Tarres* (Lee Man)
Nando Recio* (?)
Ngan Lok-fung (?)
Li Ngai-hoi (Pegasus)
Emmet Wan (?)
Ngan Cheuk-pan (?)
Cheng Chin-lung (Dreams FC)
Harima Hirokane (Dreams FC)
Law Tsz-chun (Dreams FC)
Chan Ka-ho (?)

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