Hougang's early season aspirations have taken a significant blow following the news star recruit and reigning S.League Player of the Year Fumiya Kogure has been ruled out for six weeks following a freak accident.
Despite the setback, coach K Balagumaran is confident his side have adequate replacements and can still compete against the Protectors in their season opener.
“Of course Kogure gives us a different dimension and specialises in set plays, but we also have other players who can build up play,” he told FFT.
“We have Nur Na’iim (Ishak) who is also a playmaker and players like Raihan (Rahman) and (Nur) Ridho in midfield.
“So far the team is shaping up well in training without Kogure, so I’m confident that we can put up a good fight against Home.”
Without Kogure, it looks like new recruits Jozef Kaplan and Stipe Plazibat are set to be paired in attack against a Home defence that looked slightly vulnerable in a 2-2 draw against Warriors FC on Sunday.
“I have yet to decide how we’ll line up, but it could be the two of them upfront,” said the 51-year-old. “They’ve been linking up well in training and hopefully they carry that into the game.
“I’m looking forward to see Stipe play because I see something in him; he’s a simple yet intelligent player. Coming from J2 league, I like his character and attitude in training.
“He’s still trying to adapt to the lifestyle here, but I’m sure he can settle down in due time.”
With both sides preferring a similar patient passing style of play, Balagumaran believes the midfield duel between his hard man M. Anumanthan and Home player Zulfahmi Arifin could well be the deciding factor.
“I believe ‘Anu’ will have something to prove because the national team coach (Bernd Stange) will be watching this game,” explained the former LionsXII assistant.
“He’s one of the youngest players in the team, younger than ‘Zul’, but he has the qualities to succeed. Hopefully he does well because we want to win this game.
“Home looked strong in their opening game, but so did the Warriors and Tampines (Rovers). On paper, we also have a fairly strong squad so we believe we can get the three points.
“A win will be important to keep our management happy and let people know that Hougang is a good team.”
Photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwocomments