With Albirex Niigata S looking unstoppable, Tampines Rovers and Home United will battle to finish second in the SPL this season.
Tampines Rovers FC and Home United face off at Our Tampines Hub (OTH) on Tuesday night, in what should be a crucial six-pointer to decide who finishes second at the end of this Singapore Premier League (SPL) season.
With the Albirex Niigata FC (S) express showing no signs of stopping as they pull 17 points clear at the top, the focus turns to the race for second spot – which looks like a straight fight between Tampines and Home.
Tampines are in the driving seat with 22 points from 11 matches, while Home are four points behind and have played a game more.
On paper, both sides have the quality to be pushing Albirex for the title. However they simply lack the consistency to edge nearer to the table-toppers.
After a four-match winning streak, Tampines were brought back down to earth with a shock 3-2 home defeat against Warriors FC a little over a week ago.
Meanwhile Home needed a last-gasp equaliser from Iqram Rifqi to salvage a 1-1 draw with struggling Young Lions over the weekend after notching three wins in their previous four matches.
Both coaches Jurgen Raab and Aidil Sharin will surely be looking for a positive response from their respective charges as they face off in this rescheduled game.
Home have yet to win their last four away games (including two at the National Stadium. However they will sniff a chance against a fragile Tampines side which has lost two out of their last three games at OTH, after going their first nine league games there unbeaten.
Firstly the Protectors have to contend with a crippling injury list though, with several key players not available.
TEAM NEWS: The big news is that Home will not have the services of their talismanic South Korea attacker Song Ui-Young due to a pulled hamstring in training the day before the Young Lions game.
They are already without Sirina Camara and Juma’at Jantan for the rest of the season due to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, while Fazli Ayob and Christopher Van Huizen are still unfit for action.
Tampines are not without their problems though, with Shannon Stephen and Safirul Sulaiman also out due to ACL. The good news for the Stags is that Hafiz Sujad’s registration has been cleared and the former Johor Darul Ta’zim II left-back is available for selection.
Irfan Najeeb has recovered from his ankle injury though and could find himself on the bench on match day.
Tampines Rovers FC: WWWWL
Home United FC: WWLWD
18/11/17 Tampines 0-0 Home – Singapore Premier League
23/10/17 Home 0-2 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
12/05/17 Tampines 3-2 Home – Singapore Premier League
10/09/16 Home 1-0 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
13/05/16 Tampines 1-2 Home – Singapore Premier League
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:
Ryutaro Megumi (Tampines Rovers FC)
With four goals and as many assists in the SPL this season, Megumi is the main attacking outlet for the Stags. With the pace and trickery to trouble any defender in the league, the 24-year-old Japanese winger will relish playing against a Home backline which has managed just one shutout in 12 league matches.
Shahril Ishak (Home United FC)
With 11 goals and 10 assists in all competitions, Shahril is enjoying his second spell with the Protectors and has proved that age is no barrier at this level. Without strike partner Song, the onus is on the 34-year-old to link up with the rest and produce the goods in front of goal.
WHAT ELSE THEY SAID:
Tampines forward Khairul Amri: “It’s a long wait for me (having to come off the bench for the past four games after returning from a two-match ban), but I’m not frustrated. Fazrul (Nawaz) and myself are professionals and we know our roles well.
“It’s very important for us to put up a winning streak at home because that’s where we have the advantage to take three points. The crowd at OTH has been excellent, but I hope more and more people come down to support us. We have to consolidate our position on the table and we definitely need to take our chances against Home because it’s a game which can go either way.”
Home coach Aidil Sharin: “Looking at our schedule, it’s not easy as we’re really short of players. Tampines had an off day over the weekend, but we played against the Young Lions. We have a lot of injured players, but we have to manage what is available to us.
“This is football, anything can happen and we definitely want to forget about the game against Young Lions. It’s a good wake-up call for the boys and I hope we can do much better against Tampines.”