HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens champions Leicester City go into the defence of their title at Happy Valley this weekend confident of retaining the trophy they won 12 months ago at Hong Kong Football Club.
Leicester City kick off their challenge for a third title in six years when they take on Singapore Cricket Club on Saturday before facing newcomers Brighton & Hove Albion and HKFC Red Dragons in Group D of the Main Event.
Leicester City captain Darnell Johnson, who led his side to the title last year, believes he and his team mates can pull off a repeat performance at this year’s event.
“We’re all good to go,” said Johnson. “We’re confident going into this year’s competition and we’ll be trying to retain the title. We’ve been out there and so far it’s been hot, the other teams look better and it’s going to be a tough test.
“Looking at the players we know from back in England, I know it’s going to be tough. And from what I remember from last year, the Hong Kong teams were very good because they play this game regularly and are well equipped and know what to do. “
Fellow Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion join Leicester City in Group D as they make their first-ever appearance in the competition and captain James Tilley is looking forward to the challenge his team will face over the weekend.
“As a team we’re all really excited,” said Tilley. “We’re really excited to get out there on Saturday and show what we can do.
“We are good technically as a team, good at passing, so we’ll play our own game but it’s going to be hard. Seven-a-side on a big pitch means there’s going to be a lot of running involved. And in this heat as well, it’s going to be different to England.
“We’re going to go out and do our best and give what we can. We’ll see what happens.”
Sixteen teams will face off for the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens title in the Main Event while 10 teams will also play in the Masters Events, contested by teams featuring players over 35 years of age.
Group A of the Main Event features West Ham United, Wellington Phoenix from New Zealand, Japan’s Kashima Antlers and a Yau Yee League Select, while Group B will be contested by Aston Villa, Italy’s Cagliari Calcio, Kitchee and HKFC Captain’s Select.
Newcastle United and Glasgow Rangers both return to play in Group C alongside Hong Kong Football Club and newcomers Newcastle Jets from Australia.
“We’re well prepared,” said Jets captain Solomon-John Moanhan-Vaiika. “It’s going to be different, but we expect to do our best. We didn’t come here to have a jolly. We’re here to compete to the best of our abilities.”
The 2018 HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens will also see the Citi All Stars return to defend the Masters title they have won in each of the last two years and the Masters Tournament will commence proceedings on the Friday evening before the Main Event starts at 9am on Saturday.