Warriors FC will look to make it four wins on the trot and put a dent in Tampines Rovers’ hopes of finishing second in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) on Wednesday at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium.
It has been an inconsistent season for Warriors so far this season by and large, with the nine-time champions registering six wins, six draws and seven losses in 19 games this year, although it has to be said that those six victories have come in their last nine matches.
One bright spark for the Warriors this year however, is full-back Emmeric Ong. While he is not the most flashy player on the pitch, with just one assist to his name this year, Ong has slowly become indispensable in the Warriors starting line-up in his fourth season with the club. In fact, he has only missed one league game so far this year and started all 18 times, completing the full 90 minutes on all occasions bar one.
By comparison, club captain Kento Fukuda has played in just 16 matches, started only 15 times.
With just five games left in the season, starting with the game against Tampines on Wednesday, Ong is gunning to make full use of all remaining opportunities to prove that he is fully deserving of a spot in Singapore head coach Fandi Ahmad’s squad in the AFF Suzuki Cup at the end of the year.
“Personally, I’ve always aimed to give my best in every match. With this added incentive of playing for the nation in the looming Suzuki Cup, I hope I have done enough over the course of the season to prove to coach Fandi that I’ll be a useful addition to the to the squad, be it in the starting lineup or not,” said the defender, who has two caps to his name.
Another reason to finish the season strong is also for Warriors to build a foundation for next season, when they can perhaps mount a title challenge instead of fighting for a mid-table spot, said Ong.
Currently, Warriors are languishing in fifth, thanks in part to the poor start to the season. But a silver lining for Warriors is that they haven’t been performing badly in all the games, and had luck been on their side, they could be sitting in a higher position than the current fifth spot they occupy in the SPL table.
“Certainly, the first round wasn’t a reflection of our team’s strength and we’ve proved that we are more than capable of matching the best teams in the league in the subsequent rounds,” explained Ong.
Ong also warned that the Warriors will do their best to disrupt Tampines’ plans for a second-place finish and qualification for continental competition on Wednesday night. Already, Warriors have defeated Tampines once in June, while the first meeting between both sides ended in a 0-0 draw. The last time Warriors ended a season unbeaten against the Stags was in 2015, and Ong wants to do it again.
“Fixtures hardly come as big as Tampines vs Warriors in local context and to go a season unbeaten against them is some consolation. So expect us to put up a fight on Wednesday night.”
Warriors will have Khairul Nizam back from suspension and midfielder Ho Wai Loon has also recovered from his injury after missing out against Hougang United the last time out. However, Nur Luqman and Daniel Shafiq is set to miss out, while Kento Fukuda is a doubt for the game.
Tampines will have everyone available apart from long-term absentees Shannon Stephen and Safirul Sulaiman are out for the rest of the season due to anterior cruciate ligament injuries.
17/06/18: Tampines 2-3 Warriors – Singapore Premier League
12/04/18: Warriors 0-0 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
20/09/17: Tampines 1-1 Warriors – Singapore Premier League
22/06/17: Warriors 0-1 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
01/04/17: Tampines 0-1 Warriors – Singapore Premier League
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR
Warriors – Jonathan Behe
The striker has scored in five of Warriors six victories – a clear sign that whenever Behe does well, Warriors are more likely to win. Having already netted a hat-trick earlier in June’s win over Tampines, Behe will be looking at the game as another opportunity to catch Albirex’s Shuhei Hoshino in the race for the topscorer award.
Tampines – Khairul Amri
The striker’s 13 league goals so far is the most by any local player since 2015, when Fazrul Nawaz netted 18 times for Warriors FC. This season is also just the third time Amri has scored in double digits in his career, and it is also his most prolific to date.
Amri is without a doubt the main threat for Tampines this year, and Warriors will have to keep an eye out for him throughout the 90 minutes.
WHAT ELSE THEY SAID:
Warriors defender Ong: “Of course, we’ll like to finish the season with as many points as possible and show that we can carry our recent good form into the next season.”
Tampines Head Coach Jurgen Raab: “(Finishing second) is our target after Albirex have won the league, which was clear that nobody has a chance to keep up with them. We only have four matches more… we have a gap (over Home and Brunei DPMM), we have the better goal difference, it’s up to us. If we bring this performance (against Hougang) and if we stay calm for the rest of the season, I think we have the quality for the second place. It would be, I must say, a success.