WHAT are the chances of Ceres Negros FC beating FC Tokyo at the Japanese capital?


Whichever way you look at it, the odds are stacked against the Philippine champions in tonight’s AFC Champions League playoff encounter.

For one, Ceres will be playing this one-off away match against a club that drew an average of 31,500 spectators to the Ajinomoto Stadium during its league matches last season.

To its credit, the away crowd doesn’t seem to bother Ceres that much, judging from the manner it disposed of its last opponent, Port FC, and shocked the hometown crowd in Bangkok, Thailand.

The atmosphere in Tokyo, though, might be different: the din of 30,000 fanatics supporting the other side can be unsettling.

And FC Tokyo isn’t just “another side” in Japan’s club scene, having placed second among 18 teams in last season’s J1 League.

That means FC Tokyo , which carries with it 85 years of footballing tradition, is the technically superior side.

To make matters worse for the Busmen, its inspirational captain Stephan Schrock will be missing the Jan. 28 match after getting a suspension due to two yellow cards earned from successive matches in the tournament.

It was Schrock who gave Ceres the win against Port FC last week with his wizardry of the ball, curling a wicked shot off a short pass from the right corner.

Who will take up the mantle of Schrock’s leadership role and game-changing creativity?

And with or without him, are the Busmen up to the seemingly insurmountable task of taking the club to another level?

These are the challenges that Ceres Negros coach Risto Vidakovic and his wards will be facing against FC Tokyo .

On paper, Ceres has a slim chance of advancing to the Group Stage of the Champions League.

And yet there remains that chance.

On Jan. 28, at the cold football pitch of the Ajinomoto Stadium, Ceres Negros FC will aim to defy the odds and the football gods anew.

FC Tokyo could be in for a surprise.