Tampines Rovers vs Xuan Thanh Sai Gon Preview: Stags seek redemption in AFC Cup
Led by new coach Nenad Bacina, the Stags will want to go further this year than they did in 2012, where they crashed out early after finishing bottom in the group stages
By Teng Kiat
TAMPINES ROVERS (4-4-1-1)
Imran - Jufri - Yamashita - Anaz
Amri - Mustafic (C) - Wagner - Firdaus
SAI GON XUAN THANH (4-4-2)
Tan Truong (C)
Trong Phu - Hai Anh - The Son - Phuong Nam
Oloya - Nhu Quang - Duc Linh - Ngoc Anh
Nhat Tan - Nsi Amougou
With one win and two draws from six matches, the 2012 AFC Cup campaign was a disappointing one for Tampines Rovers as they crashed out early after finishing bottom of their group.
The defending S.League champions will have redemption on their minds as they entertain visiting Sai Gon Xuan Thanh, who qualified by virtue of winning the 2012 Vietnam Cup.
New coach Nenad Bacina has implemented a 4-4-1-1 system, moving away from the 3-5-2 formation seen last season, but the fast-flowing and attacking football has not changed.
Captain Mustafic Fahrudin and classy Argentine Martin Wagner man the midfield in front of a defence helmed by Kunihiro Yamashita. Playmaker Shahdan Sulaiman provides the creativity behind the main striker, while Khairul Amri bursts in from the flanks and Jamil Ali can always be counted on to make difference be it from the start or off the bench. However, the hosts will be missing Shaiful Esah's lethal deliveries from set-pieces and crosses with his world-class left foot.
With AFC Cup rules only allowing for four foreigners to be registered, Japanese centreback Seiji Kaneko is the unlucky one to miss out, with goalkeeper Sasa Dreven included alongside Serbian striker Sead Hadzibulic, Yamashita and Wagner.
Meanwhile, Sai Gon Xuan Thanh are in some turmoil having sacked coach former coach Lu Dinh Tuan following allegations of match-fixing in their 4-0 thrashing by SHB Da Nang in the Vietnamese Super Cup last month.
Managing director Tran Tien Dai took over the reins and subsequently led them to a 1-0 win over Becamex Binh Duong in their V.League opener on Saturday.
Sai Gon Xuan Thanh will have to do without influential captain Phan Van Tai Em through injury, as well as Nguyen Rogerio and Bui Van Sang. Abdullahi Suleiman will be rested for the next game, with last season's top scorer and V.League joint-third highest scorer Christian Nsi Amougou set to lead the line.
Tran has admitted previously that his travelling squad will be short on experience, which their Singaporean opponents certainly have no lack of. His team will also have to contend with the artificial surface on the Jalan Besar Stadium pitch, which is likely to take some adjusting to.
The gulf in class, coupled with those factors, means that the home side is likely to emerge comfortable winners in this opening Group H clash.
The match will kick off at 7.45p.m at Jalan Besar on Wednesday night.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Tampines will be making their sixth appearance in the AFC Cup, having reached three quarter-finals between 2005 and 2007
- They are the only team to not have conceded any goals after two rounds of S.League matches, and incredibly all seven goals scored so far have been from different players
- Duric (pictured right) has a total of 21 goals in this competition: four for Geylang United (now Geylang International) in 2004, nine for SAFFC (now Warriors FC) in 2008 and eight for Tampines in 2011 and 2012
- Sai Gon Xuan Thanh have experienced a remarkable rise up the Vietnamese football ladder: they were formed only in 2010, but won the 2011 Vietnam second division to secure promotion to the top flight
- They had to drop the 'cement' from their original name of Sai Gon Xuan Thanh Cement in order to meet AFC rules that prohibit having the name of a sponsor's product in club names before they were allowed to participate in this year's competition
- The club ran into some financial trouble before this season and had to sell players, including Brazilian-born Vietnamese striker Hyunh Kelsey Alves, who was joint-top scorer with Amougou
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Top 3 Predictions
Tampines Rovers FC 8-0 Sai Gon Xuan Thanh FC
- 11.86 %
Tampines Rovers FC 0-2 Sai Gon Xuan Thanh FC
- 10.17 %
Tampines Rovers FC 2-0 Sai Gon Xuan Thanh FC
- 8.48 %
|Asia - AFC Cup (AFCC)||Apr 23, 2013||Sai Gon Xuan Thanh FC 2 - Tampines Rovers FC 2|
|Asia - AFC Cup (AFCC)||Mar 6, 2013||Tampines Rovers FC 2 - Sai Gon Xuan Thanh FC 3|
|Tampines Rovers FC|
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|Apr 18, 2014||Tampines Rovers FC 1 - Woodlands Wellington FC 2||SIL|
|Apr 13, 2014||Tampines Rovers FC 3 - Balestier Khalsa FC 1||SIL|
|Apr 8, 2014||Kitchee SC 4 - Tampines Rovers FC 0||AFCC|
|Apr 5, 2014||Hougang United FC 4 - Tampines Rovers FC 2||SIL|
|Sai Gon Xuan Thanh FC|
|Apr 30, 2013||East Bengal F.C. 4 - Sai Gon Xuan Thanh FC 1||AFCC|
|Apr 23, 2013||Sai Gon Xuan Thanh FC 2 - Tampines Rovers FC 2||AFCC|
|Apr 9, 2013||Selangor FA 3 - Sai Gon Xuan Thanh FC 1||AFCC|
|Apr 3, 2013||Sai Gon Xuan Thanh FC 2 - Selangor FA 1||AFCC|
|Mar 25, 2013||Hoang Anh Gia Lai 2 - Sai Gon Xuan Thanh FC 1||CQG|
|-||Tan Truong Bui||Goalkeeper|
|-||Hai Anh Le||Defender|
|-||Phuong Nam Ngo||Defender|
|-||Phan Luu The Son||Defender|
|27||Pham Do Nhat Tan||Striker|
|-||Trong Phu Hoang||Midfielder|
|-||Duc Linh Nguyen||Midfielder|
|-||Nhu Quang Le Vo||Midfielder|
|-||Ngoc Anh Nguyen||Striker|
|-||Christian José Nsi Amougou||Striker|
|-||Minh Nhut Nguyen||Goalkeeper|
|-||Dinh Vu Han Phong||Defender|
|-||Dinh Luat Truong||Defender|
|-||Long Giang Nguyen Thanh||Defender|
|26||Pham Thua Chi||Defender|
|-||Trong Phi Nguyen||Striker|