Copa Paulino Alcantara preview: A clean slate

The six clubs of the PFL pose to the press as the Copa Paulino kicks off this Saturday. Kennelf Monteza/Dugout Philippines
By Kevin Estrada

On the first day of September, the Copa Paulino Alcantara will kick off with a doubleheaders in Rizal Memorial.

At stake for the winners is a glamorous trophy and the right to join back-to-back PFL champions Ceres Negros in Asia next season.

With that in mind, all six clubs in the PFL are into the mix for a new trophy, with the Busmen given a chance to get the double.

Right away, this was the group of death for the pundits, as champions Ceres Negros looks to get the acclaim denied to them by Kaya-Iloilo 3 years ago in the old UFL.

However, they have to get it the hard way first on the second of the Saturday doubleheader by facing third-placed Davao in a battle between the country’s wealthiest sides in a 7PM night cap in Adriatico.

With squads featuring numerous Azkals on the lineup, it will be misleading to have this a tight contest, especially the Busmen had won in all but one league matches against the much-maligned Aguilas who took the win their final tiff when the league title was decided before August began.

Stallion Laguna are glad to wait for fourteen more days before debuting against the Champions, as they try to get a win that was elusive to them, given that they lost all five league matches to Risto Vidakovic’s men all season long

This year’s runner-up in the PFL are a sure lock into the seminfinal in a group that is so light, the only question is who will gonna join them in the semifinal.

In the 4PM curtain-raiser against bottom side Global Cebu, Noel Marcaida’s men are hoping to continue their six-match unbeaten run to finish the PFL season into the new contest.

However, their past two wins against the Queen City outfit will not matter now into the new competition, as their opponents now had retooled in time to recover from their beleaguered period in the league when their prized players were pried away from them.

With Takumi Uesato back into their fold, JPV Marikina looked like a worthy rival to cap off the trio.

What they said about the new competition?

Last Sunday in Ortigas, all six clubs are present and shared their thoughts on the new tournament. However, there are few that stood out.

Right off the bat, Kaya gaffer Noel Marcaida is playing caution to the wind despite setting their sights in winning the Copa, as getting it will honor the GOAT of Filipino football whose roots trace in their home province.

“We’ll take it one game at a time. Our primary objective is to top the group. That will give us an opportunity to bring the semi-finals in front of all the Ilonggo fans, and we love to play in front of our Ilonggo fans.” 

For Laguna's Ernie Nierras, the excitement is brewing in Binan as they relish again being an underdog in Group A, wherein they only won just once against their group rivals in the league all season.

"But as far as what the outcome, it can be anybody's championship," Nierras said. "It gives us another chance to see if we can beat Ceres [Negros]," he added, noting that the PFL holders are the only club that they yet to beat this year.

To sum it all up...

The Copa gives all the teams a clean slate. Meaning, the league results will not matter and now both teams have now equal footing in this new competition.

In other words, the transfer activity last August is already a sign that they have taken this tourney very seriously, in which the new trophy will be lifted by October.

Follow him on Twitter: @KevinLEstrada