Albirex Niigata FC (S) will rely on the trio of Adam Swandi, Wataru Murofushi and Taku Morinaga to make it 30 consecutive home wins on Sunday.
The White Swans have a superb 29-game winning streak at the Jurong East Stadium and will be looking to extend that run with three points over Hougang United.
Hougang will be no pushovers after they battled to force a 3-3 draw against Home United earlier in the week.
BACKGROUND: Trailing 3-1 to Home with about 20 minutes left on the clock, Hougang were staring at the face of a third defeat of the season at Hougang Stadium the last time out.
However, the Cheetahs salvaged a late point through quickfire goals from Adam Mitter and Faiz Salleh in the space of four minutes. It extended their winless start to five games as they sit second-from-bottom, but Hougang can certainly take heart from that display.
Up next for Philippe Aw’s charges is a tough away fixture to reigning champions Albirex, the only team in the SPL with a 100 per cent record so far.
In addition, the White Swans have a proud home record which has seen them emerge victorious in their past 29 encounters in all competitions at Jurong East, with the latest being a 5-0 trouncing of Geylang International FC.
Nonetheless, centre-back Illyas Lee remains unfazed and believes they have what it takes to upset the odds.
“It’s going to be tough like any other game for sure… They are a strong team but we fancy our chances too,” said the 22-year-old.
“Anything can happen in football, especially after Wednesday’s draw which I felt was our best performance so far this season. The team showed character and great fighting spirit to come back against a strong team like Home United but I strongly believe we can do better than that.”
Meanwhile, there seems to be no stopping Kazuaki Yoshinaga’s side who have continued from where the left off from last season and sit pretty on top after five matches played.
While the likes of central defender Kaishu Yamazaki, Captain Wataru Murofushi and Taku Morinaga have impressed in their debut season in Singapore, one cannot discount the impact made by Adam Swandi – one of two Singaporeans signed by the Japanese outfit this season.
Coming off the bench against Tampines in their SPL opener, the playmaker went on to start Albirex’s next four matches and already has two goals and three assists to his name.
“I am learning something new everyday and (trying to) improve while at Albirex so I am happy with how things are going for now,” Adam enthused.
“My team-mates, especially Taku and Wataru, are technically gifted. The former reminds me of (Lionel) Messi with his sublime technique and height, while Wataru is a complete midfielder who does lots of work and as a Liverpool fan, he reminds me of the legendary Stevie G (Steven Gerrard).
“Therefore, it’s easy to play and gel with them on the pitch despite the language barrier and I only see the connection getting better (from here).”
What a game at Hougang Stadium! Home United Football Club let slip a two-goal lead to allow Hougang United Football Club (HGFC) to snatch a point in their 3-3 Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League draw on Wednesday.
Posted by FOX SPORTS Asia on Wednesday, 2 May 2018
TEAM NEWS: Apart from defender Shun Kumagai who remains sidelined with a knee injury, Albirex have a clean bill of health and should name an unchanged starting line-up from their win over Geylang.
Hougang on the other hand, will continue to be without the services of French-Italian forward Antoine Viterale and Jordan Chan through ankle and shoulder injuries respectively.
19/10/17: Albirex 1-0 Hougang – Singapore Premier League
07/07/17: Hougang 0-0 Albirex – League Cup
03/07/17: Hougang 2-1 Albirex – Singapore Premier League
14/04/17: Albirex 2-0 Hougang – Singapore Premier League
14/10/16: Albirex 3-0 Hougang – Singapore Premier League
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:
Hiroyoshi Kamata – Albirex
Since joining the White Swans in 2016, Kamata has been a consistent performer, be it in defence or midfield. While not the tallest at 1.65m, he makes it up by putting his physique to good use.
Coupled with his dribbling and speed, it makes the 21-year-old a tricky customer for most opposing players.
Shahfiq Ghani – Hougang
After a slow start to the season, Shahfiq appears to have rediscovered his groove. Although the talented left-footed midfielder has yet to score for the Cheetahs, he had a blinder against Home where he laid on three assists and Hougang will require him to replicate a similar performance if they are to stand a chance.
WHAT ELSE THEY SAID:
Albirex midfielder Adam Swandi: “Head Coach Yoshinaga has helped me improve (my game) in many ways, and has been emphasising the need to improve my work rate and to score (more) goals.
“As a footballer, I always tell myself to never be content with whatever I have achieved but to go for more and work harder. At the start of the season, I set myself a target of ten goals but the most important one will be the team’s target of retaining the title.”
Hougang defender Illyas Lee: “The mood in the camp is still very optimistic. We believe that where we are in the table doesn’t reflect our performances. We just need to keep performing and the results will eventually go our way.
“The team has definitely learnt to be more patient because there’s no need to rush things. We just have to play our own game as we have the quality in the team to do so and to take our chances (when it comes). We still have 19 games ahead of us so I’m sure we will climb higher up in the table.”
Photo credit: Albirex Niigata FC (S) Facebook