Less than a week since enduring the disappointment of falling short in the Philippines Football League Semifinals, bitter rivals, Meralco Manila and Kaya Makati, face off in the Third Place Playoff. The match will take place at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Friday. Kickoff is scheduled at 9pm.
“This will be a tough test of character, coming from a defeat. It’s always an intense game, always a game of pride for both teams. We both want to get third place,” said Kaya Head Coach Noel Marcaida.
Sentiments that were echoed by Ref Cuaresma.
“Chris (Greatwich) told us we have to see the situation given to us. We fought hard but it wasn’t for us. That’s football. For us this game is a test of character to bounce back. It’s a fight for third place but it’s still a match we want to win,” he said.
Although the team that finishes third in the PFL earns an outside chance at AFC Cup football next season, motivation has been a key challenge for both teams.
“It’s been an emotional last few days but we need to stick to our plan. I think both teams deserve to be third place,” said Meralco Manila assistant coach Pong Liman. “We will be positive. It has been hard to motivate players (this week), but in our preparation, players are picking up little by little. We will enjoy the game.”
“It’s been hard to motivate the players (this past week). It’s been very emotional for them. But our motivation is to finish the league with a win,” said Marcaida. “We are also hoping the league winner wins the Champions League slot (So that the third place team can reach AFC Cup).
Meralco Manila holds the advantage over Kaya Makati in the rivals’ four meetings in the regular season, winning three and losing one.
“It’s always a tough game against Meralco. They never say die. They have proven that they are a tough team. It’s always a thriller game against them. But I think we can match them,” said Cuaresma.
Meanwhile, Meralco defender Joaco Cañas is less interested in the rivalry, and more focused on one last triumph before officially closing the 2017 PFL season.
“We did good this season. I think we deserved more. It is what it is. I’m looking forward to finishing well and enjoying the break,” he said. “We wanted to finish on top so this is disappointing. But we will play to win and make the most of it.”