The S.League season continues this week with Round 13 action. FFT Singapore’s Kenneth Tan tries to pick out the key pointers from each fixture...
Are the Tigers a truly revitalised side?
Balestier Khalsa vs Woodlands Wellington, Wednesday 21 May
Two wins in three games has livened up the mood in the Balestier camp of late.
Kim Minho’s brilliant individual performance last week, along with Park Kang-Jin’s comeback from a long-term injury, has convinced the Tigers that they are capable of conjuring up some good stuff in the attacking third.
They are now just three points off the top half and it will be interesting to see if they can continue the recent improvement.
Their opponents on Wednesday night, Woodlands, may have looked out-of-sorts in the last few games but they remain gritty customers. With Moon Soon-Ho looking more like his old self last week against Hougang United, Emir Lotinac and company could be kept busy at the back.
If they can shut out Moon as well as his compatriot Chang Jo-Yoon, it could go a long way to securing a positive result.
Will the Cheetahs inflict more hurt on the wounded Jaguars?
Hougang United vs Tanjong Pagar United, Wednesday 21 May
Two wins all season, no wins in the last seven games and the joint-lowest number of goals scored in the league thus far – the statistics do not look good for Tanjong Pagar at the moment.
Two hard-fought draws against Tampines Rovers and Geylang International gave them some hope of climbing out of the bottom three, but successive defeats against Brunei DPMM and Harimau Muda have since given them a reality check.
Their task this week looks no less tough as they take on a solid Hougang United side. The Cheetahs have showed their top-six credentials so far this season with some impressive results against the top sides in the league.
The only setback is that they have struggled to get results against lower-rung sides and Wednesday night will be a good chance to banish that notion. Having lost their last two home matches, the pressure will be on Amin Nasir’s men to get a positive result this time round.
The Jaguars may yet escape unscathed if the Cheetahs do not put their chances away.
Can the Protectors revive their title bid?
Geylang International vs Home United, Thursday 22 May
Before the season started, some keen S.League observers would have put their money on Home clinching the title this year.
However things have not exactly gone according to the script. After stabilizing their early-season nerves with a six-game winning streak in all competitions, the Protectors have since dropped seven points in their last four league games.
Fair enough, they have been taking on some strong sides lately, but this run of form is simply not good enough for a side which harbours title-winning ambitions. They are now 10 points behind leaders Brunei DPMM and it is vital that they returning to winning ways starting from this week onwards.
The feel good bubble seems to have fizzled out on their opponents on Thursday night, Geylang, after a promising start to Jorg Steinebrunner’s reign. Three draws and two defeats in their last five games suggest that the Eagles are still very much a work-in-progress.
History is also not on their side with their last victory over Home coming in 2009 and Lee Lim Saeng’s men may feel like this game is ripe for the taking.
Are the Warriors title pretenders or serious contenders for the crown?
Warriors FC vs Brunei DPMM, Thursday 22 May
Who would have thought at the start of the season.
In the past couple of years, the top two sides in the league have always been Tampines and Home. However we are seeing some refreshing changes at the summit this season.
DPMM are top and seven points clear of the chasing pack, while Warriors FC lie just behind and are emerging as surprise challengers for the title.
This week, these two sides lock horns in a top-of-the-table clash at Choa Chu Kang and it will be a good chance for the latter to prove that they are serious title contenders.
Having lost just once in their last 10 matches, the Warriors have shown they have the consistency to last the distance. The only thing that is marring this excellent season thus far is perhaps their less-than-stellar record against their fellow big sides.
An early-season loss in Bandar Seri Begawan, a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Home and a 3-3 draw against Tampines have resulted in points dropped. This game gives them the perfect opportunity to show they can turn on the style in big matches as well.
A win will not only close the gap to four points, but also send a message to their rest of their title rivals.
Is the title slipping away from the Stags’ grasp?
Courts Young Lions vs Tampines Rovers, Friday 23 May
Things had looked rosy for Tampines at the beginning of the season.
Five straight wins, including a momentous 2-1 win away in Brunei, propelled them to familiar spot on top of the league table.
However, since their first league defeat of the season to Hougang, they haven’t been really able to recapture their early-season form.
Four successive come-from-behind draws may have proved that the desire is certainly not lacking after three consecutive championships, but they mean little in the pursuit of leaders DPMM.
They are now nine points behind the table-topping Bruneians and could easily lose sight of Steve Kean’s men if they are not careful.
At least they can take comfort in an easier run of fixtures in the upcoming weeks – with Young Lions, Harimau Muda and Geylang International all lined up before a big clash with DPMM in mid-June.
No disrespect to Aide Iskandar’s boys but this is the kind of game in which the Stags need to start collecting all three points in order to stay alive in the title race. Anything less than that will prove to be yet another disappointment in this testing season.
Can the young Tigers make it three in a row?
Harimau Muda vs Albirex Niigata (Singapore), Friday 23 May
Football is a funny game at times.
Harimau Muda could not buy a win in their first 10 matches, prompting critics to question their existence in Singapore’s professional league. Then two wins came at once.
The monkey is truly off their backs now, and the players are throwing off their shackles and enjoying their football. The two excellent results against Woodlands and Tanjong Pagar meant they are now just two points off second-from-bottom Young Lions and given them hope of avoiding the dreaded wooden spoon this term.
Hosting an inconsistent Albirex side next, the young Tigers must be relishing their chances of another upset.
Tatsuyuki Okuyama’s charges have not kept a clean sheet in their last eight matches, giving Ramzi Sufian and company reason to believe they can breach the White Swans’ goal.
A shock win, coupled with a Young Lions loss, could see them climbing off bottom spot by the end of this week.