The Lions travel to Tianjin to square off against a Dragons team looking to build on their recent run of impressive results
Faritz, Safuwan, Baihakki, Shakir
Amri, Shahdan, Qiu Li
Singapore’s clash against China tomorrow might be billed only as a friendly, but the tie holds significant importance for both teams.
While the East Asia country has lined up friendly matches against Singapore and Malaysia in preparation for their AFC 2015 Asian Cup qualifier against Indonesia next month, the Lions are looking to bounce back from their recent defeat in the same qualifiers against Oman as part of their rebuilding process under new coach Bernd Stange.
The Chinese come into this tie fresh off their impressive performances in the EAFF East Asian Cup in South Korea in July, where they finished in second place behind winners Japan. They went through the whole tournament undefeated as they held traditional Asian powerhouses Japan (3-3) and South Korea (0-0), while beating giants Australia (4-3).
Caretaker coach Fu Bo, who is temporarily taking over the China national team after the sacking of Jose Antonio Camacho in June, has rung in the changes with the side. He has rested Guangzhou Evergrande’s talismanic striker Lin Gao and PSV Eindhoven defender Sun Xiang due to their club commitments in the Asian Champions League, while giving national Under-20 captain Jin Jingdao his first senior team call-up. Fu has also recalled Zheng Zheng, Feng Xiaoting and Zhao Xuri after dropping them for the recent EAFF Asian Cup in the wake of the 5-1 humiliation against Thailand in June.
As for Singapore, Stange’s new regime has yet to convince the doubters, especially after the team’s progress was questioned in the 2-0 defeat against Oman. In retaliation, the 65-year-old has called for patience, saying the rebuilding process would take time, effort and good planning.
The East German is optimistic about the improving standard of Singapore football and is looking to build on the team's performance against Oman, but admitted that it would take some time before the Lions can play at the "next level".
However, Stange acknowledged that this won't be the "best national team" that will be taking on China, as players like Gabriel Quak and Zulfahmi Arifin have been left out to focus on the U23 Merdeka Tournament.
Captain Shahril Ishak and Home United defender Ismail Yunos have pulled out of the squad with hip and hamstring injuries respectively, while young starlet Adam Swandi will remain in France with FC Metz as he has just commenced his academic semester.
There have been no replacements for Ismail and Adam, but Shahdan Sulaiman has been recalled to the squad to replace Shahril after a series of impressive performances for Tampines Rovers.
The game will also be a special one for Baihakki Khaizan as he looks set to join the centurion club by playing his 100th game for the Lions.
The Lions can draw inspiration from Thailand’s recent 5-1 mauling of China, but there is no denying there is a gulf in class between the two teams. China are ranked 95th in the Fifa standings, 60 places above Singapore's 155th. Furthermore, China have convincingly beaten them 2-1 at Kunming Tuodong and 4-0 at the Jalan Besar Stadium in the last two encounters during the World Cup qualification match in 2011.
Getting a result might not be the main objective then, but anything less than an encouraging performance from Singapore would raise questions against Stange’s methods and cast further doubts on his managerial ability.
*September 6 445pm latest: Izwan Mahbud has been ruled out after suffering a groin injury