|By Khalis Rifhan
Tampines Rovers has had a horrid start to the AFC Cup competition, losing 2-3 at home to Sai Gon Xuan Thanh before salvaging a point in a six-goal thriller against Selangor FA three weeks ago at the Shah Alam stadium.
But despite the unfavourable results in their first two matches, coach Nenad Bacina was beaming with confidence during the pre-match conference held at Hotel Royal in Singapore on Tuesday afternoon.
“Mathematically, East Bengal [has] got the advantage [with four points garnered] and so far, we [have] played two matches and we lost one at home and got a point away," he pointed out.
“So this game is an opportunity for us to catch up with them and [our position] also depends on the other match's result between Sai Gon and Selangor. Definitely, we are in a position to run for three points.”
While Bacina previously said that they lost to Sai Gon because not much information was known about their Vietnamese opponents, the 42-year-old said that he had done his homework this time around.
“Any clubs which are playing in this competition is definitely a good team and at the moment I know they are doing quite well in their league," he remarked.
"They are second and as far I know, they have a good squad. Of course, I respect Trevor Morgan as I know him [from] when he was in the S.League many years ago.
“But as I said, we are playing at Jalan Besar Stadium and we are the home team, so in that way we got the advantage and hopefully we can make use of it.”
With captain Mustafic Fahrudin suspended for the match, former LionsXII midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman will lead the team out against the Kolkata side.
“It is important for me to rally the team but Mustafic will be there prior to the match to rally them as well," Shahdan said.
“We ourselves know that we need to get the three points and we are playing at home so the players know that it is an important match.”
It will be a tough April for Tampines as they are due to play eight matches, with six of those taking place three days apart from one another.
“This month, according to schedule we have to play eight matches: four AFC Cup and four S.League matches," Bacina commented, before expressing confidence in his side's ability to cope with the hectic schedule.
"But as a professional club, we have to do our job, so we will try to focus on both competitions.
“My players are capable of doing that as most of them have played at the highest level with the national team and they went through all this in the previous season and are experienced in this.”
The match between Tampines Rovers and East Bengal will be held at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wedneday at 7.45p.m.
Tampines Rovers – April Fixtures
AFC Cup – April 3 vs East Bengal (H)
AFC Cup – April 9 vs East Bengal (A)
S.League – April 13 vs Hougang United (H)
S.League – April 16 vs Brunei DPMM (H)
S.League – April 19 vs Albirex Niigata (A)
AFC Cup – April 23 vs Sai Gon (A)
S.League – April 27 vs Woodlands Wellington (H)
AFC Cup – April 30 vs Selangor (H)
*Tampines Rovers will play their AFC Cup home matches at Jalan Besar Stadium