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UFL:  Big Four still favorites to win league title

January 13, 2012 12:29pm

Tags: Kaya FC
The United Football League (UFL) returns this Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium with Air Force taking on Kaya and Loyola hoping to begin their season with a win over the Green Archers in the opening fixtures. With the rest of the top flight also seeing action in UMAK and Nomads, football fans will be part of the biggest season in the history of Philippine league football.

Things have changed a lot since last season. Expanding to 10 teams in the top division and 12 in the second division each team will play each other twice, meaning 18 games in Division 1 and 22 in Division 2.

With all 10 teams posting their rosters recently, speculation begins as to who can win in what will be the most competitive season.

The Big Four

The likely challengers will be Global, Kaya, Loyola and reigning champions Air Force. Last season's winners will be facing improved opposition as Global have signed the likes of Carli de Murga, Jeffrey Christiaens and Rob Gier. Kaya now have Nate Burkey and Joshua Beloya leading the attack, meaning Aly Borromeo will likely return to his usual role in defense upon his recovery with Lexton Moy boosting the midfield.

Loyola, meanwhile, boasts a number of Filipino-British players with Simon Greatwich becoming the latest to join the Hartmann and Younghusband brothers. Air Force may have won the UFL Cup last year, but unable to add the same kind of strength and depth that could threaten the Airmen's title defense. How they respond to the 10-0 thrashing by CF Madrid on Tuesday will also be interesting to see on Saturday against Kaya.

Come the end of the season it’s likely all four of these teams will be near the top, battling for the title. Loyola now have an enviable midfield and attacking game but their defense may be the key to unlocking this team as Kaya showed in the early stages of their 5-4 loss in last year's UFL cup semifinals. Global, unbeaten last season, looks for consistency after a rollercoaster UFL Cup. De Murga, Gier and Christiaens may well become the backbone of the side though, providing fellow Azkal Angel Guirado with plenty of chances up front.

Midtable

The battle for the midtable will likely be contested by Army, Nomads and Stallions. Army, the top seed of the UFL Cup's knockout stages, were unfortunate to face Global, who themselves were fortunate to qualify as a Wildcard. While they finished third last season subsequent transfers mean the Army should be proud of a fifth place finish this time around. Also battling for that spot will be the Nomads, who won 12 out of 14 games in Division 2 last season and didn’t concede a goal in the UFL Cup until the quarterfinals.

Given the Nomads dropped a 3-0 match against Kaya, a comfortable midtable finish will be good progress for the Division 1 newcomers. The Stallions, meanwhile, will break up those expectations just as they did in their 3-2 win over Global in the UFL Cup's opening game. Losing to Pachanga, who will begin UFL life in Division 2, possibly battling it out with Diliman FC for promotion, the Stallions are strong but unpredictable. This can serve well in the cup format but in the league it may cost them too many points to achieve more than comfortable mediocrity, which is still relative success for a newly promoted side.  

Relegation battle

At the bottom of the table, the Green Archers and Navy battled it out last season for the wooden spoon. In the end the Navy finished the season without a win and it’s difficult to see how they will improve enough to catch up. Pasargad is the third team to be promoted from the second division, behind the Stallions and Nomads. But an average showing in the UFL Cup likely means it will be a fight for survival between Pasargad and Navy this year with Pasargad just edging out Navy.

2012 Table Prediction:
1)    Global
2)    Loyola
3)    Kaya
4)    Air Force
5)    Army
6)    Nomads
7)    Stallions
8)    Green Archers
9)    Pasargad
10)    Navy

Philippine Football

The biggest winners of the coming season, though, will be the fans. With guaranteed television coverage and an 18 game season for the top flight, compared to just 12 last time, this season will be the most action packed yet. UFL's rapid growth will not only be good for domestic football but can also become the National team's real testing ground. Expect plenty of drama and controversy, though hopefully fewer fights this time around. — OMG/JVP, GMA News
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Tags: Kaya FC



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