Albirex Niigata (S) vs Hougang United: White Swans on brink of history

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S.League | Jalan Besar Stadium| Fri 14 Oct | 7.45pm 

Billed as

The game where Albirex can sew up the title race.

The lowdown

Albirex Form

  • Warriors 2-0 Albirex Niigata (S.League)
  • Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Geylang (S.League
  • Balestier Khalsa 0-1 Albirex (Singapore Cup)
  • Albirex 1-0 Balestier (Singapore Cup)
  • Balestier 0-1 Albirex (S.League)

Hougang Form

  • Hougang 1-1 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
  • Garena Young Lions 0-2 Hougang (S.League)
  • Hougang 1-2 Brunei DPMM (S.League)
  • Tampines Rovers 1-2 Hougang  (S.League)
  • Hougang 4-2 Home United (S.League)
 

This is essentially it. Albirex Niigata (S) have a chance to clinch their first-ever S.League title and all they need to do is earn three points from their last three games to be mathematically impossible to catch for Tampines Rovers.

In fact, all the White Swans need to do is just beat Hougang United on Friday night at Jalan Besar Stadium to create history.

However, this is easier said than done, considering Hougang still have much to play for.

The Cheetahs are primed for their best-ever finish in the S.League, with seventh place being the highest position they ever attained in their history. Right now, they are in fourth place, with Home United and Geylang International hot on their heels.

Hougang are also fighting to qualify for the AFC Cup, as the second-best local team will be allocated a spot in the group stages after Tampines secured their place by reaching the Singapore Cup final along with Albirex.

Team News

Hougang should have a fairly healthy squad to pick from after a two-week break due to the international fixtures.

Iqbal Hussain and M.Anumanthan both played for Singapore during this time and they will return to Hougang with their confidence boosted.

For this important game, Albirex might look to field Yosuke Nozawa once again, after the goalkeeper was left on the bench against Warriors.

Key Battle: Atsushi Kawata vs M.Anumanthan

In all honesty, Albirex have a squad packed with quality offensive players. However, Atsushi Kawata is the one that often pops up with the goal so he will be a threat to Hougang.

This where Anu must help his team out, as he protects his back four. The hardman must make sure Kawata does not get the ball easily or his side might pay for it.

The Coaches

Hougang coach K.Balagumaran has had a decent debut season but he will want to make sure it does not end with him never getting points off the White Swans.

Under him, Hougang have lost twice to Albirex, with the games ending 2-0 and 2-1 respectively.

Albirex coach Naoki Naruo will stick to his trusted tactic of keeping possession and look to exploit any openings the Cheetahs may present.

Last Five Meetings

  • Hougang 1-2 Albirex (S.League, Jun ‘16)
  • Albirex 2-0 Hougang (S.League, Apr ‘16 )
  • Albirex 1-0 Hougang (S.League, Nov ‘15)
  • Hougang 1-1 Albirex (S.League, Aug ‘15)
  • Albirex 2-1 Hougang (S.League, May ‘15)

Facts and Figures

  • Hougang have not beaten Albirex in six meetings.
  • The White Swans had not conceded a goal in five games, until their last 2-0 loss to Warriors.
  • Albirex are headed straight for an unprecedented treble after retaining the League Cup
  • Hougang have never finished above seventh place in the league

FourFourTwo prediction

With so much at stake in this game, both sides could possibly cancel each other out. A 1-1 draw seems possible.

Photos: S.League