August 6, Tuesday, 8 p.m, Jalan Besar Stadium
It's top against bottom in this clash at Jalan Besar Stadium, where league leaders Tampines Rovers will look to make light work of the beleaguered Courts Young Lions.
With 15 losses in 18 games, the winless hosts have been marooned to the bottom of the table since the season started. While Aide Iskandar's charges registered victories in their recent League Cup campaign, where they reached the Plate final and will face Harimau Muda, they are still searching for a first win in league combat.
The Young Lions fell to a 2-1 defeat against the Malaysians in the league last Thursday despite having a one-man advantage after 38 minutes, which was especially disappointing as they had seemed to be performing better in recent games prior to that.
Tireless midfielder M. Anumathan, named in the latest Singapore squad, will be missed after picking up a fourth yellow of the season against the Young Tigers.
Eight paltry league goals so far indicate clearly where the Young Lions' problems lie for the most part, with Sahil Suhaimi and Sherif El-Masri firing blanks again in the Harimau Muda game as they struggle to hit the back of the net.
Aide will have to find a way to address his team's woes in attack, although he will be pleased with the fine form of centreback Afiq Yunos, who has at times been a one-man force in defense. The 22-year-old, also named in the Lions team, struck the sole goal in their last game and will be a threat at set-pieces.
The Stags have no goal-scoring concerns, with a league-high 32 goals in 17 games and will undoubtedly go on the attack from the get-go as they seek to extend their lead at the summit.
Wins against Hougang United (3-2) and Home United (4-1), coupled with second-placed Albirex Niigata's 0-0 draw with Geylang International on Saturday night, have left them five points ahead with two games in hand.
Strikers Aleksandar Duric (right) and Khairul Amri lead their goal-scoring charts with seven each, with their presence sure to pose problems for the Young Lions. They will be missing set-piece specialist and left-back Shaiful Esah due to an injury suffered in training with the national team, while Japanese centreback Seiji Kaneko will be unavailable due to suspension.
Coach Tay Peng Kee has his own scoring defender in Kunihiro Yamashita, who seems to have developed a knack for finding the back of the net, with a goal each in his last two games.
How well the Young Lions can cope here will depend on the motivational powers of Aide, who may well remind them that they came back from 2-0 down to stun the same opponents 3-2 in the League Cup earlier this year.
With Tampines looking in imperious form though, it looks likely that the Young Lions' search for their first three points will have to wait.