Tampines Rovers vs Balestier Khalsa: Will the Stags continue their unbeaten run against Balestier?

S.League | Jurong West Stadium | Thur 7 Apr| 7.30pm 

Billed as

Tampines Rovers’ chance to extend unbeaten run while Balestier Khalsa can clinch first three points

The lowdown

Tampines come into this game after an underwhelming performance against the Garena Young Lions.

Balestier Khalsa Form

  • Balestier 0-1 Home United (S.League)
  • Hougang United 1-0 Balestier (S.League)
  • Kaya FC 1-0 Balestier (AFC Cup)
  • Balestier 1-1 Warriors FC (S.League)
  • Balestier 1-0 Kitchee SC (AFC Cup)
  • Geylang International 0-0 Balestier (S.League)
 

Tampines form

  • Garena Young Lions 1-2 Tampines Rovers (S.League)
  • Brunei DPMM 1-2 Tampines Rovers (S.League)
  • Tampines Rovers 1 – 1 Ceres (AFC Cup)
  • Selangor 0 – 1 Tampines Rovers (AFC Cup)
  • Home United 1 – 1 Tampines Rovers (S.League)
 

In a game where they were tipped to display dominance and better their goal difference, the Stags only managed to edge the youngsters 2-1.

Still, V. Sundramoorthy’s side are on five-game unbeaten streak and that should give them the confidence to pick up three points against a Balestier side that are yet to win a game in the league this season.

A win will build some momentum for the Dazzler’s side as the next two games will be against table toppers Albirex Niigata (S) and the league’s best defensive side in the form of Geylang International.

Their opponents Balestier were dealt with more pressure after losing their third of the season against Home United.

Although Marko Kraljevic’s men are churning out commendable results in the AFC Cup, their league season is yet to pick up as they remain the only team on the table without a win this season.

The injuries that they have been dealt with does not help their cause but the return of Croatian striker Miroslav Kristic should boost their chances of scoring a goal after he managed to get 60 minutes under his belt against the Protectors.

The Tigers have been poor in front of goal this season, managing to score only two while Tampines have no problems in that department as they have already registered 12.

Having said that, the Stags might have trouble breaking down the league’s joint-best defense as Balestier have only conceded five in six games.

Team news

Tampines might miss goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud. The national goalkeeper got injured during the game against Garena Young Lions while making a diving save and that would see Joey Sim starting against his former side.

Fabian Kwok also had bandages wrapped around his shoulder after the game and he might sit this game out too.

Having rested his players after the international break, Sundram has the likes of Fazrul Nawaz, Yasir Hanapi and Hafiz Sujad to choose from as Afiq Yunos should make his return to the first team following the end of his one-game suspension.

Although Balestier will be hoping for Kristic to provide the goal threats, they are still without defenders Ho Wai Loon, Ahmad Syahir, midfielder Shah Hirul and forwards Fadhil Noh and Robert Pericic as they are all ruled out for this game due to injuries.

Key battle: Billy Mehmet vs. Sheikh Abdul Hadi

Billy Mehmet needs to hit the back of the net more regularly. Photo: S.League

Although Mehmet has registered a league high of four assists so far, at the end of the day, a striker will be looking to be leading the pack in the top goal scorers list.

Last year’s Malaysian Super League hotshot has just two goals in the league so far and his record may not improve on Thursday at the Jurong West Stadium if Sheikh puts in another creditable shift at centre-back.

The 24-year-old stalwart has been a huge part of Balestier’s astute defensive displays and they have only conceded just five goals this season.

Having started the previous nine games, Sheikh will prove to be a major obstacle for Mehmet.

The coaches

Although Sundram and Kraljevic are good friends, the two will be competitors on the pitch. Both shrewd tacticians, it will be interesting to see how they will set their teams up and the scoreline might depend heavily on their approach to the game.

Facts and figures

Past five meetings

  • Balestier Khalsa 4 – 3 Tampines Rovers (S.League ’15)
  • Tampines Rovers 0 – 0 Balestier Khalsa (S.League ’15)
  • Balestier Khalsa 1 – 1 Tampines Rovers (S.League ’15)
  • Tampines Rovers 3 – 1 Balestier Khalsa (S.League ’14)
  • Balestier Khalsa 0 – 2 Tampines Rovers (S.League ’14)
 

  • Balestier are unbeaten in four games in all competitions against Tampines. The last time Stags beat Balestier was in October 2014 (a 3-1 victory).
  • Tampines are the league’s highest goal scorers with 12 while Balestier are the lowest with 2.
  • Balestier have the lowest goals conceded in the league (5), along with Albirex Niigata (S).
  • Tampines are the one of two unbeaten teams in the league (the other being Geylang International).
  • Balestier are having one of their worst runs after the opening six games in at least the past six years with just three points.

FourFourTwo's prediction

Although Balestier have been solid at the back this season, the goal scoring threats of Mehmet, Jermaine Pennant and Jordan Webb might prove too much to handle for the Tigers. A 2-0 win for the Stags.

Main Photo: Weixiang Lim / FFT