Defending RHB Singapore Cup champions Home United were handed an unfamiliar opponent in the preliminary round of the 2014 edition on Saturday morning, where they were drawn against Cambodian outfit Nagacorp FC .
The Protectors, who won a record sixth title last year by beating Tanjong Pagar United 4-1 in the final, is the only local S.League side to face foreign opposition in the opening round this year. The games are scheduled to be played at the end of May, with the exact dates to be announced soon.
Home winger Yasir Hanapi, who won the Cup with Geylang United in 2009, is keen to get his hands on the trophy again, but warned that their opponents should not be taken lightly.
"I think our squad has the quality to win the match, but we also shouldn’t underestimate them because we don’t know how they are like," he told Goal Singapore . "But if we work hard and play to our strengths, we can win the match."
Nagacorp is one of three newcomers alongside compatriots Svay Rieng FC and Laos' SHB Champasak FC , while Philippines duo Global FC and Loyola Meralco Sparks return to join the trio in Pool B.
The most intriguing match-up looks to be between Global and DPMM , with the former beating the latter in the quarter-finals en route to finishing fourth last year. Cambodian champions Svay Rieng could also prove to be tricky opposition for Albirex Niigata , while the remaining two foreign sides will face each other.
Pool A will feature four all-local ties, with the Courts Young Lions the only S.League side to not participate. The Jaguars will have to navigate past Hougang United first if they want to attain a berth in the final again, while league champions Tampines Rovers have a seemingly straightforward task against struggling Harimau Muda B .
Woodlands Wellington will have the opportunity to avenge their first-round thrashing by Geylang International last year, while Balestier Khalsa will travel to Warriors FC - an intriguing clash given recent events between both sides .
Tigers captain Paul Cunningham, who led them to third place in the Cup last year, told Goal Singapore that he is hoping for a strong run again to make up for what has been a disappointing league campaign.
"We held them to 2-2 at Jalan Besar and we felt we were hard done by," he recalled of their league meeting against Warriors earlier this season.
"We finished the game with eight men and we still managed to get a draw out of it, so you’d think with 11 men we can get a result!
"You've got to have depth to win the league, you've got to have a very good team... you look at Tampines, they are consistent. The problem with us is that we started well and then we got into a bit of a lull; if you don’t beat the top teams you’re not going to win the league, simple as that.
"So a cup run would be nice, some silverware would be a silver lining to a so far mediocre season."
The morning's activities saw 998 footballers from the Junior Centre of Excellence programme mark title sponsor RHB Bank Berhad's 10th anniversary with a record-breaking "dribbling chain" feat prior to the draw.
Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin also announced a new three-year extension of the S.League's partnership with RHB, stating in a speech that he was "delighted and heartened" by the bank's continued support.
RHB country head Jason Wong reciprocated by stating that the bank was pleased to carry on the partnership.
"With the renewal, RHB underscores our commitment to raising this mutually beneficial partnership to higher levels," he asserted.
2014 RHB Singapore Cup draw in full:
Pool A :
Harimau Muda vs Tampines Rovers
Tanjong Pagar United vs Hougang United
Woodlands Wellington vs Geylang International
Warriors FC vs Balestier Khalsa
Pool B :
Svay Rieng FC (Cambodia) vs Albirex Niigata
Home United vs Nagacorp FC (Cambodia)
Global FC (Philippines) vs Brunei DPMM
Loyola Meralco Sparks (Philippines) vs SHB Champasak FC (Laos)