6 Spicy Questions for the S.League: Can the Warriors take advantage of stumbling Stags?

The S.League season continues this week with Round 11 kicking off tonight. Once again, FFT Singapore’s Kenneth Tan tries to pick out the key pointers from each fixture...

Can the Young Lions claim another scalp?  

Courts Young Lions vs Home United, Wednesday 7 May

Last week’s stunning victory against Hougang United may well be the turning point in the Young Lions’ season.

Prior to that, they had never kept a clean sheet and only scored three goals this campaign. Lethal on the counter-attack and solid at the back – it was a wonderful all-round performance.  The only problem now is how to replicate it on a regular basis.

This week’s task against Home could not come any tougher. The visitors are off the back of a morale-boosting 4-1 win over Warriors FC and are the second highest scorers in the league thus far. Keeping out the likes of Diego Gama and Geison Moura is one thing, shutting off Lee Kwan-Woo and company is another.

With key forward Sahil Suhaimi missing out due to suspension troubles, it will be a tall order for the Young Lions to topple the Protectors. However if Al-Qaasimy and company can put up another credible show in defence, then perhaps they could dream of a first triumph against the Protectors in four years.

Can Razip’s boys get the monkey off their backs?

Harimau Muda vs Woodlands Wellington, Wednesday 7 May

As long as the first point (or win) does not come, the pressure will not go away and confidence within the camp will continue to be low.

That is the situation the Harimau Muda boys are finding themselves in as they continue their quest for tangible rewards this season. Promising performances have not translated into results and every defeat seems to be sapping away player morale.

However before Razip Ismail’s boys get too desolate, it might be worth looking into the situation Singaporean counterparts were in last year. It took all of 13 games for the Young Lions to get their first point back then, but they ended the season in fine fashion – with three straight wins and a slightly more respectable 18 point total.

Taking on a Woodlands Wellington side whose form has been inconsistent to say the least, the young Tigers might fancy their chances this week.

They might also derive some inspiration by going into the history books – the Rams have never beaten them in all four head-to-head league encounters.

Can the wounded Warriors find the perfect response?

Tampines Rovers vs Warriors FC, Thursday 8 May

A big defeat is always hard to swallow, regardless of the quality of the opposition. However what perhaps hurt the most was the fact that the Warriors were totally played off the park by a fellow top side.

Last week’s challenge against Home was a real test of Warriors FC’s title-winning credentials and it was fair to say it proved to be a reality check. Be that as it may, it was still no mean feat having been unbeaten in seven games prior to that.

Things could have been different if Nicholas Velez’s thumping shot in the first half did not come off the post, but Alex Weaver’s charges can't dwell too much on that result. The good thing is that they will have a brilliant opportunity this week to bounce back and show that they are still capable of mounting an unlikely challenge for the title.

Defending champions Tampines Rovers are still finding their feet under interim coach Rafi Ali and have only won one of their last seven games in all competitions. If Miljan Mrdakovic continues to fluff his lines in front of goal, the Warriors may perhaps steal a win at Clementi.

Will the Eagles continue to frustrate the White Swans?

Albirex Niigata (Singapore) vs Geylang International, Thursday 8 May

Over the past two seasons, Geylang has proved to be stubborn opponents for Albirex. One defeat and five draws left former coach Koichi Sugiyama scratching his head when thinking of ways beat the Eagles.

That responsibility is now passed on to current coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama and it looks like an unenviable task. The Eagles have been rejuvenated under Jorg Steinebrunner and have not lost any of their last seven games.

Argentinian hitman Leonel Felice has scored five goals in as many games and they have come from behind in three of their last four games to salvage points, so the White Swans have it all to do if they want to break down this well-organized Geylang side.

If Kento Fukuda and company continue to show their resilience in defence, then the Eagles could well extend their unbeaten run to eight and prove their reputation as Albirex’s ‘bogey team’.

Can the Cheetahs recover their early-season mojo?

Hougang United vs Balestier Khalsa, Friday 9 May

A month is a long time in football.

At the start of April, Hougang were flying high having taken down the likes of Tanjong Pagar United, Albirex and Tampines. Just one defeat in six games saw them sitting pretty in fourth in the table.

However a month on, the Cheetahs are reeling from three defeats in their last four games and on the verge of losing their spot in the top half.

Failure to cut out their defensive lapses coupled with opponents getting used to the direct playing style meant Hougang has found the going tough in recent times. Last week’s shock thrashing by the Young Lions should be a good wake-up call for the Cheetahs as they seek to arrest this slide in form.

Friday night’s televised clash pits them against Balestier, a side which has flattered to deceive despite talking up their title ambitions in pre-season. Last week’s flat display in the victory against Harimau Muda failed to mask their attacking deficiencies.

If they continue to mess up the most basic of passes, then the Cheetahs will fancy their chance of returning to winning ways.

Do the Jaguars stand any chance in Bandar Seri Begawan?

DPMM vs Tanjong Pagar United, Friday 9 May

Five sides have visited the Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei this season and only one of them enjoyed their trip back home. 

Reigning champions Tampines rode their luck and came away with a 2-1 victory but the rest did not enjoy such fortunes – three sides went home licking their wounds from big defeats. It does not bode well for their next visitors, Tanjong Pagar.

Five straight wins have propelled Brunei DPMM to the summit of the S.League table and given them a significant five-point gap to the chasing pack. Steve Kean’s men have also scored the most goals and conceded the fewest so far, giving the Jaguars much to ponder ahead of this encounter.

At least Patrick Vallee’s charges are gradually improving game by game. Despite attaining only two points from their last two games, the level of commitment shown by the players and their willingness to fight for the cause has thrilled the Frenchman.

With key playmaker Kamel Ramdani back from injury, there should be more creativity in the attacking third from the Jaguars. If he can supply the ammunition for Monsef Zerka, there is reason enough to believe that the Jaguars can do the unthinkable.