The Loyola Meralco-Kaya clash will be more than just a showcase of standouts from the national team pitted against each other.
When two of the biggest clubs in the United Football League take the pitch this Saturday, it could potentially determine which team walks away with the title of what has been an enthralling UFL season.
Tied on points at the top with Global, the Sparks and Kaya square off at 4 p.m. in the latest installment of their budding rivalry which started in the UFL Cup semifinals late last year. The match will be aired live on AKTV on IBC13.
Azkals stars Phil and James Younghusband, who are also the league’s leading scorers with a combined 27 goals, will be up against national teammates Jason Sabio and Lexton Moy in the showdown.
James, the Sparks captain, is relishing the experience of another Loyola-Kaya duel.
“I’m excited,” he said. “You could call this game the ‘El Clasico’ of the Philippines,” James added, drawing parallels to the rivalry between Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Anto Gonzales, a former Kaya player who now dons the Sparks colors, said there’s extra motivation facing his former team because of the title.
“I’m extra motivated knowing that a win would take us a step closer to the championship,” Gonzales said.
The Sparks are buoyed by a 2-0 conquest of Kaya in the first round, where both Phil and James scored in the first half to give Loyola the edge. Kaya has lost one game since then while winning seven, grinding out tough victory after another.
“I’m excited for one of the biggest shifts of table positions in the league,” said Sparks defender Patrick Ozaeta.
Like Global, both teams have identical 10-win, 1-draw and 2-loss records, setting up the clash nicely as a potential title-decider. Global has yet to play Loyola and Kaya in the second round.
The rivalry began in December when the two clubs battled in the UFL Cup semifinals with the Sparks coming from three goals down to win, 5-4, before a raucous crowd at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Kaya looked like it was on its way to the UFL Cup Finals after taking a 3-nil halftime lead. But the Sparks found their stride in the second half to score five goals in what has been considered as one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the league.
The loss stung Kaya with Moy saying that defeat in the semifinals are the ones that “you remember for the rest of your life.”
“It’s going to be a fantastic match,” said Davide Cortina, the Loyola midfielder.
“Matches against Kaya are always difficult, both sides are not afraid to play physical, but both possess extremely talented technical players who are capable of really mixing it up. We have to be confident and make no mistakes so Kaya will have to be at their best to try to stop us,” Cortina added.