UNIVERSITY of the Philippines opens its title retention campaign in the UAAP Season 79 men's football tournament when it takes on La Salle on Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Game time is at 4 p.m. with the Fighting Maroons coming off last season's emotional championship run, culminating in a 4-1 drubbing of Ateneo which they fittingly dedicated to teammate Rogie Maglinas.
Maglinas succumbed to cancer last year.
The booters from Diliman are in good shape to repeat as they have almost kept the championship winning line-up intact.
Reigning MVP Daniel Gadia is expected to once again pull the strings from midfield while expectations on Finals hero Kintaro Miyagi will also be high after he battered the Ateneo defense in the finals with a hat trick.
La Salle, on the other hand, will be relying on Gelo and Jed Diamante to pick up the cudgels in scoring following the departure of top scorer Gregory Norman Yang to graduation.
Formally opening the tournament is the match-up between National University and University of the East at 2 p.m.
The Bulldogs will be looking for a quick replacement to brilliant talisman Paolo Salenga who led the league in goals last season with 11.
Meanwhile, the Red Warriors hope to improve on a frustrating season last year where they failed to win a single game, ending up with 12 losses and two draws.
Completing the triple-header is the juniors division battle between heavy favorite Far Eastern University and La Salle-Zobel.