Young Lions must come up with a different game plan if they are to come away from Our Tampines Hub on Sunday with a win against Tampines Rovers in the Singapore Premier League (SPL).
The Stags made easy work of a tired Young Lions side in midweek to seal a 4-0 victory at Jalan Besar Stadium and the two teams will go at it again this weekend.
BACKGROUND: Just four points separate both Young Lions and Tampines Rovers currently, albeit the former having played a game more.
But to say that there is not much difference between both teams would be folly – the gulf in class could not be more apparent just four days ago, as an experienced Tampines side dished out a footballing lesson to the nation’s developmental side and thumped them 4-0.
What can be said though, is that the Young Lions are no longer whipping boys of the SPL.
After years of struggling at the bottom end of the table, Young Lions Head Coach Fandi Ahmad’s boys are actually giving the big boys in the league a run for their money.
They already have three wins in this season alone – the total amount of victories they earned in both the 2016 and 2017 season combined – and gave the Stags a tough fight in the previous round.
The Young Lions clearly showed fighting spirit and resilience then, but inexperience told and allowed late goals from Amirul Adli and Ryutaro Megumi to make certain of the result.
A chance to make up for that disappointing loss will now come quickly, but Fandi needs to solve his team’s defensive fragilities, after they failed to keep a clean sheet in their last seven games.
Against a Tampines team that has scored in all but three of their 15 matches across all competitions, this will definitely be key if the Young Lions hope to attain at least a point.
Tampines too have history on their side, with eight straight triumphs over their younger counterparts. The last three have been won by at least a three-goal margin.
Tampines will go into this game with largely a full squad to pick from. Shannon Stephen and Safirul Sulaiman are still sidelined while Irfan Najeeb is still fighting to be fit.
Young Lions will still miss Jacob Mahler, Zulqarnaen Suzliman and Naqiuddin Eunos. There is expected to be some rotations to the first 11 though as Young Lions will play their fifth fixture in 17 days.
Young Lions: LWDDL
PREVIOUS FIVE MEETINGS:
30/05/18 Young Lions 0-4 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
28/10/17 Tampines 3-0 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League
12/09/17 Young Lions 0-4 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
23/04/17 Tampines 1-0 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League
15/10/16 Young Lions 1-3 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:
Syahrul Sazali (Young Lions)
One of the revelations this season, Syahrul is catching the eye with his no-nonsense tackles and bombarding runs forward. His pace will be an asset in trying to catch Tampines on the break and giving the Young Lions more bodies upfront.
Fazrul Nawaz (Tampines Rovers)
Fazrul is hitting a purple patch with four goals in his last five matches. He is the ideal targetman who can hold the ball up long enough for his teammates to come into play. His aerial strength is not to be sniffed at either.
WHAT ELSE THEY SAID:
Tampines Rovers FC forward Fazrul Nawaz: “It’s good to score three games in a row but I will take one game at a time. Whenever I get the opportunity to play, I will my best to give a good performance. Look at Ronaldo or Messi, they are in their 30s. For me, age is just a number. It’s how you go into a game, take care of yourself and go in prepared. We need to take one game at a time, the pressure is on us because we have two games in hand now and we have to win them. Even then we can only hope to close the gap as much as we can, and hopefully Albirex will lose some games.”
Young Lions Head Coach Fandi Ahmad: “Everybody needs to be present at the game and we respected them too much (in the last game). We have got more injuries now so we have to start changing players. There are little things we need to polish up, that’s why I say, between the boys and the men, there is a lot of difference. We sometimes tend to defend too deep, our defenders can be slow at pushing up. They (Tampines) have advantage now psychologically.”