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Kaya hopes to do the unthinkable tonight despite facing the unenviable task of beating defending champion Johor Darul Ta’zim in the round of 16 of the AFC Cup at the Stadium Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Yunos in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
The 2015 UFL Cup champions will have to produce their best performance ever if they want to topple the star-studded JDT side in the 8:45 p.m. kickoff of the first knockout stage of Asia’s second-tier club competition.
Behind locals OJ Porteria, Miguel Tanton and Antonio Ugarte and foreigners Masa Omura and Alfred Osei, Kaya flirted at topping Group F during the group stage before settling for second place behind Hong Kong’s Kitchee to qualify for the round of 16.
But the late drop forced Kaya to meet JDT, which last year became the first Malaysian club to win the AFC Cup by beating Tajikistan side Istiklol, 1-0, in the final.
This season, JDT showed no signs of slowing down after topping Group H behind a squad composed of some of Southeast Asia’s best players.
Leading JDT will be Malaysian national team mainstays Safiq Rahim, Safee Sali and Amri Yahyah and Singapore national team member Hariss Harun.
Kaya will be on the lookout for Rahim, who in 2014 was the top goal scorer of the AFF Suzuki Cup when Malaysia finished runner-up to Thailand and had a third-best seven goals for JDT in this year’s AFC Cup group stage.
The competition’s round of 16 began at presstime, with Ceres-La Salle aiming to beat Hong Kong’s South China at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.