S.League | Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium | Sat 27 Feb| 8.15pm
Brunei DPMM Form
- Geylang International 1-1 DPMM (S.League)
- Albirex Niigata (S) 3-2 DPMM (S.League)
- DPMM 3-1 Global FC (S.League)
- Home United 2-0 DPMM (S.League)
- DPMM 4-0 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
Warriors FC Form
- Home United 2-2 Warriors (S.League)
- Warriors 6-2 Garena Young Lions (Friendly)
- Hougang United 2-3 Warriors (Friendly)
- Albirex Niigata (S) 0-2 Warriors (Friendly)
- Warriors 7-0 Warwick Knights (Friendly)
Battle of the two most experienced sides in the S.League.
After kicking off the season with two away matches, defending champions Brunei DPMM will return to the venue where they lifted the crown three months ago in front of an estimated 25,000-strong crowd.
An emphatic 4-0 victory over Balestier Khalsa that night saw them winning their first S.League title in style, but things are rather different this term.
The new three-foreigner rule has forced them to release Boris Raspudic and Joe Gamble, and their departure were keenly felt when DPMM began their season with a 3-2 loss to Albirex Niigata (S) in the Community Shield before being held to a 1-1 draw with Geylang International.
However, many stalwarts have stayed – including the 35-year-old duo of Wardun Yussof and Rosmin Kamis as well as 33-year-old Sairol Sahari — to make this one of the most experienced squad in the league. Against Geylang, the starting line-up had an average age of 29.3.
Yet, questions are already being raised as to whether these players still have the hunger for winning or even the legs to last the distance.
Interestingly, their upcoming opponents Warriors FC will also have a similar cast of experienced players.
Their starting line-up against Tampines Rovers (the game was eventually rescheduled due to a waterlogged pitch) had an average age of 29.6, with the youngest on the pitch being 25-year-old midfielder Emmeric Ong.
The oldest in the team will be the ever-reliable 37-year-old Yazid Yasin in goal, while 28-year-old Zulfadli Zainal Abidin will lead the side. Tenacious midfielder Poh Yifeng will take charge of the centre of the park and 33-year-old Hafiz Rahim should be starting in a wide role up front.
In Warriors’ season opener against Home United, they were largely outplayed by the much more youthful Protectors but showed spirit by coming from behind twice to draw 2-2.
The jury is still out on whether the Warriors class of 2016 can emulate the achievements of past title-winning sides, but a win here will go a long way in convincing the doubters.
DPMM should have a largely fit squad to call upon, bar the likes of Hendra Azam and Aminuddin Zakwan as they are yet to clear the mandatory 2.4km test.
As for the Warriors, centre-back Madhu Mohana will be serving out the first of his two-match suspension for his straight red card against Home. Expect either Hafiz Osman or Syaqir Sulaiman to step in to partner Kento Fukuda at the back.
Meanwhile Shaiful Esah is still injured, so Zulfadli should continue to deputise at left back.
Key Battle: Brian McLean vs Jonathan Behe
It should be a blockbuster of a battle between DPMM’s 1.87m tall centre-back McLean and Warriors’ 1.88m tall hitman Behe.
Both men will be looking to use their experience of playing in European leagues in the past. McLean previously plied his trade in the Scottish top flight with Motherwell and Falkirk, as well as in the English lower leagues with Preston North End, while Behe featured in the French Ligue 2 with Le Mans.
Last Five Meetings
- Warriors 1-3 DPMM (S.League, Nov '15)
- DPMM 2-0 Warriors (S.League, Aug '15)
- Warriors 1-3 DPMM (S.League, Apr '15)
- DPMM 2-3 Warriors (S.League, Oct '14)
- Warriors 1-0 DPMM (S.League, May '14)
Behe has already got off the mark with a penalty on his debut, but McLean has shut down his fair share of strikers over the years and he can help the Wasps achieve their first shutout of the year.
DPMM coach Steve Kean remains unsatisfied with his side’s performances after last week’s 1-1 draw with Geylang, so it will be interesting to see what tactical changes are made for this crunch clash as DPMM pursue their first win of the season.
Similarly, Warriors coach Jorg Steinebrunner is looking to get off the mark and much of that will depend on how he sets his troops up to face a DPMM side which is traditionally strong at home.
Facts and Figures
- Interestingly, matches between both sides have never ended in a stalemate before. In 16 head-to-heads, DPMM have won nine while Warriors triumphed seven times.
- In 2015, DPMM won all three encounters between both sides including a 2-0 triumph at the Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium. Brazilian hit man Rafael Ramazotti scored in all three games.
- DPMM’s strike duo of Paulo Sergio and Ramazotti has combined for a total of six goals against Warriors last season.
- DPMM lost just two out of 13 home games in 2015.
- Warriors have not won their last eight away games in the league, with their last success stretching all the way back to May 2015 when they thrashed Albirex 4-0 at Jurong East.
DPMM to edge it 3-2. Returning to their beloved Hassanal Bolkiah home may just be the tonic the Wasps need to finally lift off.
Photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo