The relentless S.League season continues this week with Round 8 kicking off tonight. Once again, FFT Singapore’s Kenneth Tan tries to pick out the key pointers from each fixture...
Can the wounded Cheetahs rejoin the hunt?
Hougang United vs Brunei DPMM, Wednesday 16 April
It must have be infuriating experience to be a Hougang United fan at times.
On one hand, they are proving to be real giant-killers with 11 points collected so far out of a possible 15 against top-six sides of last season. On the other, they have accumulated none from their outings against Warriors FC and Geylang International – sides which finished in the bottom half last year.
Given the manner of the collapse, there is no doubt that last week’s defeat against the Eagles was their lowest point of 2014 so far. However, there is little time for Amin Nasir’s men to mull over this setback as they host a free-scoring DPMM side on Wednesday night.
The spotlight will of course be on the Brazilian hotshots from both sides, Geison Moura and Rodrigo Tosi. The duo are currently joint-top scorers in the league with seven goals.
It will be hard for Geison to breach the stingy DPMM defence, but if Igor Cerina and company can shut out Tosi as well as his partner-in-crime Roy O’Donovan, then perhaps the Cheetahs fans can dream of another giant-killing feat.
Can rejuvenated Warriors keep up their good form?
Albirex Niigata (Singapore) vs Warriors FC, Wednesday 16 April
Season 2014 has been as smooth-sailing as it gets for Warriors FC.
With coach Alex Weaver making a number of shrewd signings in the off-season, the uniformed side is truly looking like a revitalised team so far with just one defeat in seven games. The British pairing of Tom Beattie and Kevin McCann gives the necessary grit in the middle of the park, while there are the likes of Nicholas Velez, Miroslav Pejic and Hafiz Rahim in attack.
Their recent run of games has not been easy, considering that their last three came against sides which finished in the top half last year, but they have managed to come out largely unscathed. Thus the onus is now on them to keep up those efforts when they take on Albirex this Wednesday night.
The White Swans are in equally impressive form of late, with their centre-midfield pairing of Kosuke Matsuda and Koki Akasaka proving not too shabby at all. If Beattie and McCann can win the midfield battle against this duo, the battle would already have been half-won for the Warriors.
Can the Jaguars reignite their campaign?
Home United vs Tanjong Pagar United, Thursday 17 April
It has been a real tough start to the season for Tanjong Pagar United.
After a solid campaign in 2013 where they managed to finish in the top half for the first time in many years, this is supposed to be a year where they continue to climb the ladder and jostle for the top few positions. However, things have not exactly according to plan.
The couple of victories so far have come against the two national development sides, albeit via the narrowest of margins. To add to that, they have opened the scoring in three of the seven matches but failed to pick up the three points each time. Head coach Patrick Vallee has it all to do ahead of this tough encounter against a powerful Home United side.
Hafiz Osman and company will definitely have their hands full trying to handle the likes of Fazrul Nawaz, Qiu Li, Bruno Castanheira and Lee Kwan-Woo, but they can perhaps find inspiration from their last two outings at Bishan Stadium.
It took a 97th minute goal to break their resistance in 2012 while they managed to steal a point last year through a late effort of their own.
Can Steinebrunner get the last laugh over Vengaman?
Balestier Khalsa vs Geylang International, Thursday 17 April
“Jorg will fail.” Those were the famous words of Balestier Khalsa Prime League’s team manager R Vengadasalam when quizzed about Jorg Steinbrunner’s installation as Geylang International coach on Red Card Sports Radio’s BeSt League show.
Since then, things have changed dramatically for both clubs. Steinebrunner breathed new life into the Eagles setup as he inspired them to three wins and one draw under his charge, while Balestier have lost three out of the last four games after a bright start to the season.
The wily German may not mention this, but it must have been quietly satisfying for him to see his Eagles now leapfrogging the Tigers in the standings. The two sides will lock horns this Thursday and it provides another excellent opportunity for him to prove his coaching credentials.
His skipper Muhammad Ridhuan is looking revitalised of late, while striker Leonel Felice is slowly but surely getting into goalscoring mood. In contrast, Tigers hitman Goran Ljubojevic has been labouring upfront without the ammunition supplied by playmaker Park Kang-Jin.
If the Korean midfielder does not recover his fitness in time for this clash, it looks like Steinebrunner will have an even better chance of extending his unbeaten run as Eagles coach as well as getting the last laugh over the ‘Vengaman’.
Will it be a happy reunion for Salim?
Tampines Rovers vs Woodlands Wellington, Friday 18 April
So far so good - reads the report card for Tampines Rovers coach Salim Moin after seven matches played.
There were doubts over his ability to handle such a massive club given that his previous coaching stints were at lower-ranking outfits, but so far he has been able to silence his critics.
Apart from a calamitous 4-2 outing against Hougang and a lacklustre 80 odd minutes against Harimau Muda, his Stags have not done much wrong this season. However as mentioned before, expectations are sky-high at this club and we have already seen coaches biting the dust midway through previous campaigns.
Thus it is imperative that the former national midfielder keeps his side at the top of the table as long as he can. This week’s televised clash against Woodlands will be yet another intriguing challenge as he faces them for the first time since his departure from the club.
The Rams may be languishing at the wrong end of the table, but as seen in this season so far, they are always a tough side to break down. Thus the onus is on Salim to come up with the right tactical plan to breach Yazid Yasin’s goal.
Will sparks fly for the right reasons in the Causeway Derby?
Harimau Muda vs Courts Young Lions, Sunday 20 April
A match between a Singapore-based team and a Malaysian side will always be competitive, given the huge footballing rivalry between the two neighbouring countries.
However things went a tad too far last season when the Young Lions went away to Pasir Gudang to take on the young Tigers. After scoring two goals to turn around the tie late on, Sherif El-Masri couldn't resist celebrating exuberantly in front of the Harimau Muda “Ultras” who were situated behind the goal.
That sparked ugly scenes as the Ultras began to throw flares onto the pitch, forcing the game to be abandoned. Razip Ismail’s side were to pay for that as the Young Lions were awarded a 3-0 win thereafter.
This time round, both Razip and Aide Iskandar will hope that this match will proceed without such unsavoury incidents. Their respective sides have not found much joy in their endeavours thus far and will certainly relish this clash as their best chance to taste victory for the first time this season.
The former will hope that Akhir Bahari and Nurshamil Abdul Ghani can get in on the scoring act, while the latter will be similarly banking his hopes on Jordan Webb and Sahil Suhaimi.
Regardless of what happens, it promises to be an intriguing battle between the two national development sides.