Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic believes his side should get a chance to host a game at the Singapore National Stadium, if they progress to the last 16 of the AFC Cup.
Kraljevic has rallied his side to get the wins necessary to reach the last 16 of the tournament. By doing so, Balestier might have a chance to host a game at the National Stadium, as Tampines Rovers are set to do when they play Selangor on May 10.
If we go through, we will most probably play JDT in the next round, so why not play at the Sports Hub?
The Tigers currently have four points in Group F with two games remaining. Kitchee sit above them with seven points, while Kaya FC are first with nine.
If Balestier win their remaining games, they have a chance of finishing top to progress to the last 16, where they might face reigning AFC Cup and Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT).
The teams that have qualified for the last 16 in both Group H and F will face each other, with the respective group winners playing the second-placed team in a single-legged tie. The winners will host the game.
JDT have already qualified for the next stage and are waiting to see which position they will finish in.
This is a motivational factor for Balestier, Kraljevic believes.
“I tell you if we go through, we will can play JDT in the next round, so why not play at the Sports Hub?” Kraljevic told FourFourTwo.
“At the moment, Jalan Besar Stadium is good enough for us. But if we progress to the next round, the next opponents will be very attractive for everybody.
“We will be pleased, and so will everybody, to play at the Sports Hub. It is a once-in-a-life experience, so we will be pleased to play there.”
First, Balestier will have to beat Maldives’ New Radiant, who are yet to win a single game both in their domestic league and on the regional front.
In order to do so, Kraljevic has promised to put out a strong team, even though his side will miss striker Miroslav Kristic, who is suspended for the tie.
Fadhil Noh, who has scored four goals in the Prime League, is slated for a start along with veteran Jamil Ali.
“Playing at home gives us some edge. We have everything in our hands and us progressing still depends on ourselves, not external results,” Kraljevic added.
“We need to go all out and put pressure from the beginning of the game. We need to attack so Jamil will start, Syafiq (Zainal) too. We need more attacking players who can give us lots of creativity in the attacking third.”
New Radiant coach Iordan Stoykov is wary of the Tigers, after both sides played out a 2-2 draw back in the Maldives earlier in the campaign.
“Tomorrow we will meet a big challenge. Still, I hope we will get our first win,” Stoykov said.
“We respect the hosts, they are a good team, but we have ambitions.
“We created a lot of chances but unfortunately we missed them and that is the main reason we only took one point against Balestier.”
Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo