As usual, Ha Noi T&T are set to win the V.League title, but this year the heavy responsibilities are being placed on the shoulders of their young players.
|Scoring joy: Ha Noi T&T players celebrate after a goal against Kitchee SC in the Monday's AFC Champions League qualifier. — VNS Photo Tuan Tu
It is even more difficult since, apart from the league, they also want to triumph in the National Cup and go further in the AFC Champions League (ACL).
Coach Phan Thanh Hung recently expressed his hopes in the team's talented younger generation.
"This year, we want to win the top position. Although my players are young, I believe they can do what we want," said Hung.
"We have added seven players from the U21 squad to the first team. Together with those who joined the V.League last year, two thirds of the team are youngsters," said Hung.
Players such as midfielders Pham Duc Huy and Nguyen Quang Hai, as well as goalkeeper Phi Minh Long, who have shown outstanding performances at the recent Asian U23 Football Championship, ensure their berths in the first team.
Huy and Hai competed wearing the Ha Noi FC jersey in the First Division during the last two seasons.
They have good skills and usually have displayed smart assists to teammates, as well as long shoot-outs that threatened goalkeeper.
Goalie Long is the first-choice of coach Miura for the continental championship. His outstanding performance let his coach have peace of mind, since Long will be the perfect substitute for Ha Noi T&T's No 1 keeper Tran Anh Duc.
"Long has grown up and I will have no concerns after Duc has passed his peak," Hung said.
"The new faces of Ha Noi T&T will be fresh and strong," Hung said.
Other younger players, such as defenders Nguyen Minh Hai, Dao Duy Khanh and midfielder Do Duy Manh, who grew up in the Ha Noi T&T training centre, are now key members of the team.
However, the coach said there are things that need to be done to build a powerful team.
"They still show their weak points," said Hung, referring to the match against Hong Kong's Kitchee in the ACL's second qualifying round on February 2.
He said the team's lack of experience resulted in their wasting many opportunities. His team had better ball possession, but could not bring it into play.
But thanks to these mistakes, they would grow faster, Hung added.
The managing board also paid attention to strengthening their squad through the participation of foreigners.
Apart from Argentina striker Gonzalo Damian Marronkle and naturalised Hoang Vu Samson, who have confirmed their importance to the team, Ha Noi T&T recently signed a contract with former Paris Saint Germain striker Loris Arnaud.
The Frenchman will play his first match wearing the new jersey on February 9, the second day of the Lunar New Year, when Ha Not T&T visits the South Korean Pohang Steelers in the play-off round of the ACL.
The team will fly to South Korea this Sunday, so they will have to celebrate the new year on the airplane.
Further, Hung said his players would not lose their focus because of being far from home during Tet.
Pohang Steelers are a strong team and the match will be very difficult, but in case of a loss, the team will lose in a beautiful match.
And if magic occurs and they return home with a win, it would be a sweet gift for the entire team, said Hung.
Ha Noi T&T will come back home one day after the game, and they have two days with their families to enjoy the holiday. They will begin their training on February 13, one week before the beginning of V.League play.
In the first round match, Ha Noi T&T will face the rich FLC Thanh Hoa on away ground.
Ha Noi T&T, who finished second last year, twice won the V.League championship, in 2010 and 2013.