Albirex Niigata (S) vs Geylang International: Two in-form sides face off

S.League | Jalan Besar Stadium | Fri 20 Apr| 7.45pm  

Billed as

Geylang International’s opportunity to make it four wins on the bounce and stop Albirex’s six-game winning streak.

The lowdown

Albirex Niigata (S) Form

  • Albirex 6-0 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
  • Albirex 3-0 Garena Young Lions (S.League)
  • DPMM 1-2 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)
  • Albirex 1-0 Tampines Rovers (S.League)
  • Home United 0-3 Albirex (S.League)

Geylang International Form

  • Balestier Khalsa 1-3 Geylang (S.League)
  • Geylang 3-1 Garena Young Lions (S.League)
  • Brunei DPMM 1-2 Geylang (S.League)
  • Geylang 0-1 Tampines Rovers (S.League)
  • Geylang 2-2 Home United (S.League)

Football is a funny old game where things can simply change in a matter of weeks. Just three weeks ago, Geylang were down in the doldrums as they endured a six-match winless run and placed third-from-bottom.

Fans feared for the worse when the Eagles went away to Bandari Seri Begawan to take on defending champions Brunei DPMM, but they somehow emerged with a credible 2-1 victory.

That proved to be the catalyst for their upturn in fortunes as they picked up 3-1 wins in their next two matches against the Garena Young Lions and Balestier Khalsa.

Nine points in three matches propelled them to fourth in the table, level on 18 points with DPMM and Home United. They will be looking to continue that good run of form in this week’s televised game, but it will definitely not come easy against the current league leaders Albirex Niigata (S).

After years of tasting failure in the league since their inception in 2004, the White Swans seem bent on making history this term – dropping just seven points from a possible 33 on offer so far.

Their solitary defeat came in a 2-0 reverse to Warriors FC in mid-March, but they have been invincible since then.

A neat 2-0 win against Hougang United sparked the start of a six-game winning run where they scored 17 goals and conceded just one.

The all-Japanese outfit have been ruthless in front of goal, as evident in the 6-0 mauling of Balestier Khalsa two weeks ago. Having sat out the last round of fixtures due to the league’s scheduling, they will be fresh and ready to go against the rejuvenated Geylang side.

With second-placed Tampines dropping points once again on Tuesday night, they have the opportunity to open up a massive seven-point gap between them – a considerable psychological edge at this halfway stage of the season.

Team News

Albirex should have a fully-fit squad to call upon, with no major injuries or suspensions reported.

As for Geylang, full-back Al-Qaasimy Rahman is ruled out through suspension after accumulating four yellow cards.

However, they will welcome back the services of effervescent attacker Stanely Ng after he served out his one-match suspension against Balestier.   

Key Battle: Atsushi Shirota vs Branko Cubrilo  

Cubrilo responded to his critics with two good strikes in his last game.

How apt was it for Cubrilo to hit form just when FFT tipped him as one of the 10 players who could potentially be released in this mid-season transfer window.

The Croatian’s two goals against Balestier were superbly-taken and he will surely be looking to continue in the same manner.

With his 28th birthday falling on the same day as this match, the 1.81m forward should need little motivation to take down the White Swans.

The 24-year-old, who was named in FFT’s Team of the Month for April, has been excelling in his ‘libero’ role – sweeping away most of the opposition attackers with ease and expertly bringing the ball out of defence on a number of occasions.

The Coaches

It has been quite the second spell in charge of Albirex for Naoki Naruo. The 41-year-old’s first stint in 2009 ended with a disappointing seventh-place finish, but it has been starkly different this time round.

He has found the right formula, with the team enjoying the best offence and defence among all the teams so far.

Meanwhile it has been a real baptism of fire for Geylang’s Hasrin Jailani, but the first-year coach is learning fast and starting to develop an idea of what is his best line-up.

Last Five Meetings

  • Geylang 0-0 Albirex (S.League, Mar ’16)
  • Albirex 2-0 Geylang (S.League, Oct ’15)
  • Geylang 0-2 Albirex (S.League, Aug ’15)
  • Gelyang 0-3 Albirex (League Cup, Jul ’15)
  • Albirex 1-0 Geylang (S.League, Apr ’15)

Facts and Figures

  • Albirex has the slight upper hand based on head-to-head records. In 41 match-ups, they won 15 and drew 14. On the other hand, Geylang won 12 times.  

  • The earlier meeting between both sides at Bedok ended in a 0-0 stalemate, with Hasrin sent off to the stands for dissent after seeing two legitimate late penalty claims turned down.

  • Geylang have failed to score in their last five matches against Albirex.

  • Geylang’s last win against Albirex came in July 2014 where they ran out 3-1 winners in the League Cup quarter-finals.

FourFourTwo's prediction

A 1-1 draw. Albirex wants to extend their winning streak to seven matches, but the rejuvenated Geylang outfit should have enough quality to stifle them.