S.League | Toa Payoh Stadium | Thurs Sept 22 | 7.30pm
Two teams trying to salvage what they still can from the season.
- Balestier 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S) (Singapore Cup)
- Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Balestier (Singapore Cup)
- Geylang International 2-1 Balestier (S.League)
- Balestier 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)
- Garena Young Lions 1-3 Balestier (S.League)
- Warriors 5-2 Garena Young Lions (S.League)
- Brunei DPMM 3-0 Warriors (S.League)
- Warriors 2-3 Tampines Rovers (S.League)
- Home United 3-0 Warriors (S.League)
- Geylang International 1-0 Warriors (League Cup)
The Tigers finished fourth last year but with five games left, they now find themselves marooned second from bottom. They need a miracle to finish in the top six; realistically, the best they can do is seventh.
Victory against the Warriors, who occupy that spot, will go a long way in achieving that. They are seven points behind the uniformed giants, but have a game in hand and if they can capitalise on that, their last few matches will take on a bit more meaning.
The Warriors themselves are seven points off sixth spot and will almost certainly end up worse than their fifth position last season. They managed to halt a run of seven consecutive defeats in all competitions with a 5-2 thumping of the Garena Young Lions last time out, and another win here will represent only the second time they have won back-to-back this season.
Balestier, meanwhile, have not won two league games in a row since October last year and enter this on the back of four straight defeats.
They did do well to restrict the normally imperious Albirex Niigata (S) to 1-0 losses in each leg of their Singapore Cup semi-final and a similarly stout defensive display will be handy if they want to win for only the second time at home this season in the league.
Balestier winger Zulkiffli Hassim will sit this out due to suspension, but more concerning for them is a raft of injuries. Defenders Fadli Kamis and Hanafi Salleh are injured, as are versatile midfielder/defender pair Ahmad Syahir and Emir Lotinac.
For the Warriors, they are largely injury-free with only Emmeric Ong a doubt, having only recently returned to full training after suffering a broken nose.
Key Battle: Sheikh Abdul Hadi vs Jonathan Behe
With a decimated defence, centre-back Hadi will be a key figure at the back for his team. The defender has completed every game bar one for Balestier this season, which has boosted his development and confidence.
The 24-year-old has good positioning and awareness, but will have to be on his toes throughout to keep track of opposing striker Jonathan Behe. The latter has been one of the Warriors’ leading lights this season with 14 goals and three assists in 20 games in all competitions, despite it being his debut season.
Impressively, the Frenchman has not gone more than two consecutive matches without scoring and his poaching ability will be vital to the visitors’ chances of coming away with a result.
Marko Kraljevic will have to reshuffle his defence and midfield with the depletions mentioned above and is likely to set the team out in a more cautious approach, with a reliance on set-pieces.
Opposing number Razif Onn has not enjoyed much joy since taking over from Jorg Steinebrunner but may be tempted to be more offensive here.
Last Five Meetings
- Warriors 1-1 Balestier (S.League, May ‘16)
- Balestier 1-1 Warriors (S.League, Mar ‘16)
- Warriors 4-2 Balestier (S.League, Sep ‘15)
- Balestier 4-0 Warriors (League Cup, Jun ‘15)
- Balestier 1-2 Warriors (S.League, May ‘15)
Facts and Figures
Balestier have not kept a clean sheet in their last 19 games in all competitions.
If they do not win this game, the highest they can finish this season is seventh - their worst placing since a 10th-placed finish in 2011.
They are one of two teams not to have won after conceding first (17 games in all competitions), the other being Young Lions (16).
The last goal-less game between these two teams occurred in September 2012.
Jonathan Behe has scored in both his matches against Balestier this season.
Warriors have won just two of their last 26 games away from their home (including all matches at Jalan Besar Stadium) in all competitions, losing 19 of those.
Balestier’s defensive woes might cost them. Warriors to edge this 1-0.