AFC Cup Group E | Jalan Besar Stadium | Tues 15 Mar | 7:30pm
Tampines Rovers form
- 15/02/16 Tampines Rovers 3-3 Geylang International (S.League
- 23/02/16 Tampines Rovers 4-0 Sheikh Jamal (AFC Cup)
- 26/02/16 Tampines Rovers 4-1 Hougang United (S.League)
- 03/03/16 Home United 1-1 Tampines Rovers (S.League)
- 08/03/16 Selangor FA 0-1 Tampines Rovers (AFC Cup)
Ceres La Salle form
- 14/02/16 Manila Nomads 0-15 Ceres La Salle (UFL Cup)
- 18/02/16 Pasargad 0-9 Ceres La Salle (UFL Cup)
- 23/02/16 Ceres La Salle 2-2 Selangor (AFC Cup)
- 03/03/16 Ceres La Salle 1-2 Global (UFL Cup)
- 08/03/16 Sheikh Jamal 0-2 Ceres La Salle (AFC Cup)
Top of the table clash in Group E
After their 4-0 trouncing of Bangladeshi side Sheikh Jamal Dhamondi Club and a 1-0 away victory against Selangor, Tampines Rovers lead Group E with six points.
It is the first time since 2008 that a Singaporean side have won their first two matches of the AFC Cup group matches. This is a promising sign for the S.League following the struggles Singapore representatives have endured in continental competitions in recent years.
Still, nothing remains definitive. There are four more games to go for Tampines, including trips to Bangladesh and Philippines. It is imperative for the Stags to clinch a result here, which will greatly boost their chances of making through to the knock-out rounds in straightforward fashion.
Both teams will come into the game with seven days of rest following their previous AFC Cup fixture.
Like Tampines, Ceres are still unbeaten in their opening two matches – they followed up their 2-2 draw against Selangor with a 2-0 win over Dhamondi Club.
Spanish striker Adrian Gallardo accounts for three of the four goals Ceres have scored, while Philippines international Stephan Schrock – a former Bundesliga player – has been in superb form as well.
All things considered, the Philippines side have been impressive in their maiden AFC Cup campaign.
Both sides have a full squad available and no injury concerns to contend with.
For Tampines, the trio of Jordan Webb, Jermaine Pennant and Billy Mehmet will most likely lead the attack after sitting out the game against Selangor.
It will be interesting to see if head coach V. Sundramoorthy decides to stick with the 3-4-1-2 formation that has worked a treat so far against Ceres, or revert to a more conventional 4-3-3 that he has used in the S.League, where the Stags are unbeaten as well.
On the other hand, Ceres boss Ali Go made just one change in two AFC Cup matches, replacing Juan Guirado with Martinez de Murga last week.
The front three of Bienvenido Maranon, Gallardo and Shrock will be expected to take the game to the Stags, while captain Kim Sang Min will most likely hold the fort at the back once more.
Key Battle: Adrian Gallardo vs Afiq Yunos
With three goals in two AFC Cup games, 28-year-old Gallardo will be the key man once again for Ceres.
The 1.80m tall striker is a typical poacher who relies more on his movement and positioning instead of athleticism to get into goalscoring positions. In his last game, the Dhamondi Club defenders made the mistake of allowing Gallardo space inside the box, and the striker made them pay for it.
The task to stop him will definitely fall for Tampines centre-back Afiq Yunos, who has started both AFC Cup games this season.
The 25-year-old has bounced back from an injury-ravaged 2015 season to become a key player at the back for the Stags.
In fact, a main reason why Tampines have not conceded any goals in the competition yet is because of Afiq, who has outshone his South Korean partner Kwon Jun.
Man-marking counts among Afiq’s biggest assets and he will definitely be relied on to keep an eye on Gallardo on Tuesday.
V. Sundramoorthy has proven himself to be a shrewd tactician over the years, although there is a peculiar fact that he has not lifted an S.League title as a coach so far.
Against Selangor, Sundram surprised many by resting both Pennant and Mehmet, but it worked a treat as Singapore international Fazrul Nawaz popped up to score the winning goal.
While he was a fearsome attacker in his heydays, interestingly, he has been known to be a coach that favours the defensive side of football. That perception, however, is changing this year with the array of attacking options available at his disposal.
Meanwhile, Ceres head coach Ali Go is a former Philippines international who earned 14 caps between 2000 and 2007.
Go is a meticulous planner and one can expect him to have gone through footage of Tampines’ previous matches ahead of the match up.
The trainer is also an advocate of playing football the right way and prefers a patient build up for his team.
It remains to be seen if Go will set his team up to attack from the start, as they did against Dhanmodi and Selangor, or play more cautiously – especially if Tampines start Webb, Pennant and Mehmet.
Facts and Figures
- This is the first time a Singapore side have started the AFC Cup with two wins in two games since 2008, when Warriors FC (then SAFFC) did it.
- Tampines Rovers have achieved the same number of wins they had the last time they were in the AFC Cup in 2014.
- All five goals Tampines Rovers scored so far in the AFC Cup have come from four different players, and one own goal.
- Ceres can equal the record number of points recorded by a Philippines side in the AFC Cup with a draw against Tampines Rovers.
- This will be the first time both sides have faced each other in history.
Riding a high wave, the S.League title favourites will use home support to their advantage to clinch top spot in the group. 2-0 to Tampines.
Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo