This is the second occasion when Tampines Rovers are facing an Indian club in as many years as they were placed with East Bengal in the Group H in the last edition of the AFC Cup as well. The Singaporean side were defeated 4-2 and 2-1 in the two legs by the Red and Gold who became only the second Indian club to reach the semi-finals of the competition.
|STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES|
Tampines Rovers, one of most successful clubs in Singapore are also the defending champions of the S-League. Nicknamed 'The Stags,' they are the only club other than East Bengal to have won the ASEAN Cup Championship.
Despite winning all three of their league matches, Tampines have not impressed much this season. Their strengths lies at set-pieces, where the likes of Aleksandar Duric, Kunihiro Yamashita and Norihiro Kawakami prove to be regular threat. Shaiful Esah and Shahdan Sulaiman have the ability to deliver great free-kicks and corners while a number of towering members of the team wait in the opponent box to pounce the ball in.
As for weaknesses, they are vulnerable to speedy attacks, especially on the break. The central defensive partnership of Yamashita and Kawakami are particularly suspect in terms of positioning as well when facing opponents of a higher calibre. Their lack of pace and trickery down the flanks also makes it difficult for them to use it as an attacking outlet. When under pressure, they usually resort to thumping the ball up to Duric, which doesn’t often work out well.
The probable line-up:
| Hyrulnizam Juma’at
Kunihiro Yamashita – Norihiro Kawakami – Anaz Hadee
Ang Zhiwei – Shahdan Sulaiman – Mustafic Fahrudin (C) – Shaiful Esah
Miljan Mrdakovic – Aleksandar Duric
Salim Moin, the new coach of the outfit is a strong advocate of 3-5-2, but at times Luis Costa operates as an attacking midfielder as well. With the wingbacks usually being too defensive, it compounds their attacking problems. They do sometimes revert to a 4-4-2 though.
The defending champions have won all three league games this season and are placed second in the league table with DPMM FC leading due to a better goal difference. They won their first match 1-0 against Home United, regarded as title contenders, and the second 3-2 against Courts Young Lions, who finished bottom last season.
However, their performances in those two matches have been far from convincing and both opponents were arguably unlucky not to have earned a result in their favour. In both cases, clinical finishing gave them the edge but defensively, they looked vulnerable.
However, their form took a turn for good against Geylang International on Sunday and goals from all of their three major attacking players, namely Mrdakovic, Duric and Closa, won them the match 3-0. With the season progressing, the side is looking to regain its old touch and will be trying to register their first win in the AFC Cup this year.
Mustafic Fahrudin – Defensive midfielder/centre-back
The skipper of the outfit remains one of the most consistent players at the club and can be counted on to marshal his area with authority, whether in midfield or defence. When needed, he can drop in at the back to help out while he is a driving force in midfield and takes no prisoners while going forward.
Luis Closa – Attacking midfielder
The Paraguayan, a new signing this season, is technically one of the best players at the club. He has the ability to pull the strings from the middle of the pitch and is capable of accurate long-distance strikes. He opened his account against Geylang on Sunday. Unfortunately, Tampines haven’t seemed to find the right tactics to accommodate the creative playmaker, who joined the club from Peruvian outfit Sport Boys. He has weighed in with more defending than he probably would have liked.
Miljan Mrdakovic – Striker
The former Serbian youth international has five goals already this season, although he has not particularly impressed with his touches or hold-up play. While the striker usually doesn't bank on his speed, he is a poacher inside the box and can prove out to be lethal if fed with quality balls from the midfield. Though he has not benefitted too often in that area, with the Stags struggling offensively this season, his record so far shows that he has the ability to score. The Anderlecht youth product is also the highest scorer in the S-League so far, having scored 4 in 3 matches.
|AFC CUP FORM
Tampines Rovers are yet to open their account in the AFC Cup this year, having lost both the fixtures they have played so far. They have conceded 8 goals in two matches and have scored only once.
Their display in the opening game against Kitchee SC was utterly embarrassing as they were completely outplayed and outclassed. The Hong Kong side could have easily added a couple more goals to their 5-0 victory.
Their second game against a rather inexperienced Nay Pyi Taw side, in the absence of their foreign signings, saw them lose 3-1 in Myanmar to hand their opponents their first-ever AFC Cup victory. They went 3-0 down before scoring a consolation goal. Last year also they finished bottom of their group last season as well with two points from six games in a group with Selangor FA (away draw), Xuan Thanh Sai Gon (away draw) and East Bengal.
In the six editions of the AFC Cup they have made an appearance, on four occasions they managed to qualify for the knockout stages.
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