FEU battles UP, Ateneo takes on La Salle in UAAP football knockout semifinals

DEFENDING champion Far Eastern University clashes with last season's runner up University of the Philippines, while rivals De La Salle and Ateneo collide on Sunday in the semifinals of the UAAP Season 77 men's football tournament at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

Unlike in the recent years where the top-ranked squads have twice-to-beat privileges, all teams are in equal footing as the semifinals is a one-match affair with the winners play in the one-game Finals on March 8 also at the Rizal pitch.

With reigning MVP Paolo Bugas back in harness, the second-ranked Tamaraws are slightly favored in their 4 p.m. duel with the No. 3 Fighting Maroons.

In a rematch of Season 75 semis, the top seeded Green Booters hope to sustain their unbeaten run in the tournament against the Blue Eagles, who are back in the postseason after a one-year absence, in the first match at 2 p.m. Both matches will be aired live on ABS-CBN Sports+Action.

The FEU-UP match will feature the league's top two goalscorers in the Tamaraws' Eric Giganto and the Maroons' Jinggoy Valmayor.

Valmayor, who is playing his final year for UP, is on a personal mission as he missed the championship match against FEU last year as the national under-23 standout was serving a two-game suspension.

But the Tamaraws have a deep lineup featuring Jess Melliza, Nicolas Ferrer and Arnel Amita and Joshua Mulero.

La Salle will miss defender Timothy Brago, who was suspended due to cumulative yellow cards, but coach Hans Smit still has Nate Alquiros, Sabin Bustamante and Chuck Uy leading the attack.

The Green Booters last won the championship in 1998.

Ateneo, the Season 75 champion, suffered a major blow in its bid to make a return stint to the Finals, as midfield general Mikko Mabanag is suspended also due to cumulative yellow cards.

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