Preview: Tanjong Pagar vs Albirex Niigata

The hosts have the opportunity to draw level on points with their second-placed Japanese opponents with victory as they chase a top-three finish
September 24, Tuesday, 7.30p.m., Queenstown Stadium

With league leaders Tampines Rovers possibly being crowned champions by the end of this game between Tanjong Pagar United and Albirex Niigata, this is likely to end up affecting the race for second spot.

A promising start to the campaign has given way to disappointment as it draws to a conclusion for the White Swans, with defeat to Warriors FC last week prolonging their winless streak to eight games and leaving Tampines only three points short of sealing the title.

With a paltry 26 goals in 22 games, it is clear where the problem lies for Koichi Sugiyama's men. After top scorer Kazuki Sakamoto, who has 10 strikes, the next highest Albirex scorers are Bruno Castanheira, Kento Nagasaki and Shingo Suzuki, with four each.

Castanheira (right) is capable of moments of magic though, as exemplified by his stunner against Warriors in their 3-1 loss, which led to coach Alex Weaver dubbing him the league's "Arjen Robben". But the half-Brazilian, half-Japanese winger will need his team-mates to step up if they want to hold on to second spot, with Home United only one point behind them.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars are smarting from a defeat to Tampines by the same scoreline last Friday. Kamel Ramdani saw his penalty saved four minutes from time as he blew the chance to equalise, with the Stags racing down the other end to score the third one minute later.

The French-born Algerian playmaker will be keen to make amends against the Japanese side back on home soil and inspire his team to victory alongside hotshot Monsef Zerka, the latter having also bagged 11 goals in his debut season.

A win for Patrick Vallee's men will see them go level on points with Albirex, such is the tight nature of things between the rest of the top six bar Tampines. The visitors will not be keen to let them happen and thus spectators should be in for an entertaining affair.