S.League Preview: Round 5

Fans can look forward to an interesting round of matches as Warriors FC face off against Tampines Rovers, while Geylang International entertain Home United
By Eddie Ridzwan

Courts Young Lions vs Albirex Niigata (S) (Wednesday, March 20, 7.30 p.m, Jalan Besar Stadium)

After having the results of their first four games controversially overturned, Aide’s boys will want to get things back on the road. Unfortunately for them, they have to face table-toppers Albirex Niigata.

The White Swans have maintained their 100% record since the opening day, albeit with all the games being won by a single goal. The Japanese side have also displayed tough character and resilience, coming back to win two of their games after falling behind.

The combination of Kazuki Sakamoto and Kento Nagasaki will need to be nulified by the Young Lions’ defence, with the pair looking very lively during their win against Brunei DPMM FC in the previous week.

Aide’s charges have also proven to be able to match up against their opponents thus far. They are organized and compact, which makes it difficult for opposition side to break them down. One thing that has been eluding them is that decisive pass in the attacking third, but he introduction of Sherif El-Masri to the team has definitely added some life into the young side’s attack.

However, unless El-Masri and team can come up with something special, Albiirex should win this match.

Warriors FC vs Tampines Rovers (Thursday, March 21, 7.30 p.m, Choa Chu Kang Stadium)

It is the battle of the champions, as the reigning Singapore Cup champions host 2012 S.League winners at the Warriors Arena.

Having performed poorly in the AFC Cup, the Warriors must have been glad to have finally registered their first win in the 2013 S.League season after putting three past a depleted Geylang United without any reply.

It will be a true test for the Warriors this Thursday against the Stags as they look to build on that impressive win over the Eagles at Bedok Stadium. 

Abdil Qaiyyim and his backline will be kept busy throughout the night, where they will be tasked to defend against an attack boasting evergreen striker Aleksandar Duric, Khairul Amri, Sead Hadžibulić and Shahdan Sulaiman.

In previous matches, the hosts have been exploited through their fullback areas and this has to be one area of concern for coach V.Selvaraj as the visitors are known for their attacks via both flanks and delivering crosses into the box.

The Warriors will be dependent on Japanese duo Tatsuro Inui and Shimpei Sakurada to supply ammunition for Mislav Karoglan and Sufian Anuar up front, but they will be faced with a destroyer in the form of Mustafic Fahrudin.

Tampines have been leaving it late to win their matches this season while Warriors proved that despite their lack of points in the league, they are still aware of the direction towards the opponent goal.

If the Warriors can put their past setbacks behind, they can prove to be a tough opposition for Tampines Rovers and this should be an exciting clash for fans to look forward to.
Hougang United vs Tanjong Pagar United (Friday, March 22, 7.30 p.m, Jalan Besar Stadium)

After a high-flying start to the new campaign that saw them bang in nine goals in two games, the Jaguars have slumped to disappointing form, collecting only a solitary point in the last two games.

A win has eluded Hougang United since their opening game and coach Alex Weaver will see this as a good opportunity to get back on track in this match that pits two teams desperate for a win against each other.

The trio of Kamel Ramdani, Monsef Zerka and Ismael Benahmed seemed to have shifted two gears down and will need to regain the energy and drive that they displayed in the first two games.

The foreign contingent of Hougang United have not played up to expectations so far, but if at their best, they will be a force to be reckoned with. In particular, Robert Eziakor, Liam Shotton and Jerome Baker will be a thorn to Walid Lounis and company with their sheer physical presence and blistering pace.

This “Live” match is one not to be missed!

Geylang International vs Home United (Saturday, March 23, 7.30 p.m, Bedok Stadium)

Bedok Stadium will be host to a match between two traditional powerhouses in the S.League whose performances has left more to be desired so far this season.

Both teams have only registered a single win and find themselves rooted in the bottom half of the league table.

Geylang will look to bounce back from their massive defeat to Warriors FC, although coach Vedhamuthu Kanan will be without his wing wizard, Amy Recha, who has started serving the nation.

Home United will still be without the service of Indra Sahdan and Masato Fukui as they serve the second of their two-game suspensions after being issued straight red cards against Woodlands Wellington. Jordan Webb will shoulder the attacking responsibility, and the Canadian opened his accounts against Tanjong Pagar last week. 

Home United will be high on confidence after their resounding win against the Jaguars and will look to walk away from Bedok with all three points.

Balestier Khalsa vs Warriors FC (Sunday, March 24, 7.30 p.m, Toa Payoh Stadium)

Darren Stewart’s Balestier Khalsa side will welcome Warriors FC in one of the two Sunday night matches this weekend.

Balestier would have been disappointed that they could not hold on to their lead against Tampines, eventually losing to a late winner by Shahdan Sulaiman. The Toa Payoh outfit has been less than convincing thus far this season and will have to do better against a Warriors side that has "showed their quality at last", as coach V. Selvaraj noted after their 3-0 win over Geylang.

A rejuvenated Qiu Li will have to be in inspired form once again to lead his side against a confident Warriors side. Park Kang Jin will have to do step up his game a notch in the middle of the park, especially with Shimpei Sakurada and Kazuyuki Toda breathing down his neck.

Warriors marquee signing, Toda, should be available for selection after he was on the sidelines during their first win against Geylang United. The former Spurs defensive midfielder has yet to show glimpses of his former self as the Warriors have failed to register a win in the games that he has featured in.

Based on form and recent performances, this match is up for grabs for both sides.

Tampines Rovers vs Harimau Muda ‘B’ (Sunday, March 24, 7.30 p.m, Clementi Stadium)

Tampines Rovers showed their championship mettle against Balestier Khalsa after they huffed and puffed before eventually grinding out a win, scoring a winner two minutes from time. Harimau Muda ‘B’ will be their next battle in their quest to retain their title.

This will be the Stags' fourth match within two weeks while Harimau Muda have had an extended break, with this being their first game within the same time span.

Nenad Bacina’s side will need to dig well into their reserves, largely due to the fact that Harimau Muda employ a high-pressing and high-tempo game. Skipper Mustafic Fahrudin will be crucial in midfield to break up their opponent’s attacking moves.

Shahdan Sulaiman, who opened his accounts against Balestier Khalsa with an 88th-minute winner, should be watched. The attacking midfielder does his job effectively and quietly despite tending to remain in the background during a match. However, he will rise when the time calls for it.

If Nenad Bacina plans his team’s recovery from Thursday well, they should have enough to see out the young Malaysian side and claim all three points.