Tampines Rovers vs Felda United: Will the Fighters pack a punch in first AFC Cup match?
Felda's first historic outing in the AFC Cup campaign.
Felda United Form
- Selangor 3-1 Felda (Malaysia Super League)
- Felda 0-2 Johor Darul Ta’zim (FA Cup)
- Felda 1-2 Kelantan (Malaysia Super League)
- Felda 1-1 Kedah (Malaysia Super League)
- Johor 3-1 Felda (Malaysia Super League)
Tampines Rovers Form
- Global FC 2-0 Tampines (AFC Champions League playoffs)
- Albirex Niigata (S) 2-0 Tampines (SG Cup Final)
- Albirex Niigata (S) 1-5 Tampines (S.League)
- Tampines 2-0 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
- Garena Young Lions 1-3 Tampines (S.League)
Tampines Rovers will kick off their AFC Cup campaign with a game against Malaysia’s Felda United on Tuesday at Jalan Besar Stadium.
The Stags must go into this match with a must-win mentality at home, especially since Felda are on a poor run of form in their domestic league.
Felda have not been able to win a single game since the 2017 Malaysia Super League campaign started and are on a five-game winless run.
The Fighters should be light on confidence at the moment and they have no coach at the helm after Azmi Mohamed decided to leave the club within three games in.
Felda will have an advantage in match fitness though, as their season began much earlier in January. Tampines have only played one official fixture in the AFC Champions League qualifiers’ 2-0 loss to Global FC.
For the Stags, Fazrul Nawaz is recuperating from the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear he suffered in 2016 last year, while Shahdan Sulaiman picked up a knock in training recently.
Tampines will still have a large squad to choose from, especially after Sahil Suhaimi and Raspreet Sandhu were solely signed for the AFC Cup campaign.
Khairul Amri is set to lead the line alongside Ivan Dzoni while the AFF Suzuki Cup Singapore defensive duo Madhu Mohana and Daniel Bennett should reprise their partnership in the central of defence against the Malaysian side.
Felda have not reported of any injuries and should have a full squad to choose from.
Midfielder Stuart Wark, who was rested for the game against Selangor, should come back straight into the squad.
Key Battle: Shukor Adan vs Khairul Amri
Just like Tampines’ Daniel Bennett, Felda captain Shukor’s ability has not diminished with age.
The defender would have been a starter for Malaysia in last year’s Suzuki Cup but chose not to come out of retirement despite repeated requests from Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee.
Shukor will come up against Khairul Amri, an adversary he should be familiar with after the striker's exploits in Malaysia and on the regional front.
Amri has lost his electrifying pace but his nifty footwork might be able to hoodwink the veteran. His eye for goal will also be a threat to Felda.
This will be an intense battle and the one who comes out on top would most probably have helped his side walk away with victory at the end of the night.
Felda have had a shocking change of head coach within three games into the new season as Azmi Mohamed decided to relinquish his post.
Mohd Nik has come in as caretaker coach but the Fighters are still unable to turn the corner.
Nik has voiced out his frustrations with Felda’s foreign striker Gastón Cellerino and said he might be benched for the foreseeable future.
Similarly, Tampines have had a change in head coach after the abrupt departure of Akbar Nawas, two weeks prior to the kick off of the S.League.
Former Young Lions coach Jurgen Raab has been handed the reins but it remain to be seen whether the German has had enough time to prepare his team for the encounter.
Facts and Figures
This will be Felda’s first appearance at the AFC Cup.
Tampines got off to a winning start in the AFC Cup last year with a 4-0 victory over Shiekh Jamal.
Both clubs qualified for the AFC Cup after finishing in second place in their respective leagues.
The Fighters might be on a poor run of form but they should not be underestimated. This could end up in a stalemate at 1-1…