Home United vs Tampines Rovers: Battle of the S.League giants
An opportunity for Home United to derail Tampines Rovers’ title bid.
HOME UNITED FORM
Hougang United 4-2 Home (S.League)
Home 3-0 Warriors FC (S.League)
Brunei DPMM 1-0 Home (League Cup)
Balestier Khalsa 2-2 Home (League Cup)
Geylang International 0-5 Home (League Cup)
TAMPINES ROVERS FORM
Ceres La Salle 2-3 Tampines (Singapore Cup)
Tampines 2-1 Ceres La Salle (Singapore Cup)
Tampines 1-2 Hougang United (S.League)
Warriors FC 2-3 Tampines (S.League)
Tampines 2-1 Geylang International (S.League)
With Albirex Niigata (S) not in league action this week, Tampines have a good chance to put some pressure on the leaders by taking three points here.
With just five games left and a four-point gap to make up, they cannot afford to slip up if they want to keep their title hopes alive – but they will not find Home an easy opponent to crack.
The uniformed giants have not enjoyed the best of campaigns and languish in sixth place, though a spot in the top three is still within reach.
That should motivate the Protectors enough to push for a win here, especially off the back of a disappointing 4-2 defeat to Hougang United before the international break.
Both teams have to deal with injuries and unavailable players for this game, with Home hit hard in defence, while the Stags have been left lightweight in attack.
With both sides committed to playing attractive, attacking football, this should be a game with plenty of thrills.
Key centre-back Abdil Qaiyyim is injured, together with fellow defenders Sim Teck Yi and R. Aaravin.
Wing wizard Faris Ramli is also not expected to feature as he recovers from an ankle problem.
There should be a return for forward Khairul Nizam, while Irfan Fandi is also expected to be available for the first time since enlisting for National Service. Defender Lionel Tan will be away on international duty with the Singapore under-19s for the AFF Under-19 Championships.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
13/05/16 Tampines 1-2 Home (S.League)
03/03/16 Home 1-1 Tampines (S.League)
08/11/15 Home 2-3 Tampines (S.League)
17/05/15 Tampines 3-0 Home (S.League)
13/03/15 Home 2-0 Tampines (S.League)
Tampines will have to do without injured midfielders Fabian Kwok and Shahdan Sulaiman, plus forward Fazrul Nawaz. Striker Billy Mehmet will also miss out as he serves the first of his two-game suspension for a red card.
Prime League youngsters Ahmad Fadly, Shafie Muliantoh, Ariyan Malik and Saifullah Akbar will join Tan in donning Singapore colours.
Key Battle: Song Ui-young vs Izzdin Shafiq
A midfield dynamo capable of dominating games, Song has emerged as a key figure for Home this season in their engine room.
The South Korean is tireless and has taken his game up another notch, proving adept in both defence and attack – making it seem like he is everywhere on the pitch, be it making a crucial intercept or starting an offensive move.
The 26-year-old has been deployed in a more attacking role of late and has shown he has the finishing ability to round off his late runs, scoring four times in the league already – just one short of equalling his overall tally from his previous five seasons to date.
While counterpart Izzdin is not a traditional defensive midfielder, the Singapore international nonetheless plays an important part in screening Tampines’ back-line and he will have to keep a close eye on Song.
The 25-year-old likes to maraud over the field in search of a penetrative pass and is a great asset in opening up play for his side. His intelligent positioning also helps him to stop the opposition from carving apart the Stags and will be a key factor in their defensive strategy.
New head coach Aidil Sharin will have to figure out the make-up of his back four in light of the aforementioned absences. Captain Juma’at Jantan could fill in alongside Shahrin Saberin, while midfielders Zulfahmi Arifin and Haziq Azman have both played there this season as well.
Opposite number Akbar Nawas has settled in well since taking over midway through the season and has generally allowed his players freedom to express themselves. However, he might adopt a more counter-attacking strategy here, given his relative lack of resources.
Facts and Figures
- Ken Ilso has scored on three out of the four starts he has made for Home against Tampines.
- The last goal-less league fixture between these two sides was in April 2010.
- Home’s last victory against Tampines at Bishan Stadium was in October 2013, when they won 2-0 in the S.League.
- Tampines have 11 different scorers in the league this season, second only to Albirex’s 12.
This could well turn out to be an epic battle. 2-2.
Photos: Weixiang Lim/FFT