6 Spicy Questions for the S.League: Can Zerka push the Jaguars to greater heights?
Can Zerka’s return inspire the Jaguars?
Tanjong Pagar United vs Hougang United, Thursday 27 February
The marquee man returns after a one-match suspension which ruled him out of Tanjong Pagar United’s opening win away to Harimau Muda. Expectations will be sky-high for Monsef Zerka this season after he hit 20 goals for the club in all competitions during his debut season.
With influential playmaker Kamel Ramdani likely to miss out on this game due to injury, they will need to rely on the 32-year-old’s guile and potency in front of goal in order to crack a tough Cheetahs outfit. The Jaguars faithful will hope he does not suffer from ‘second-season syndrome’.
Will the White Swans finally be ruthless?
Albirex Niigata (Singapore) vs Harimau Muda, Thursday 27 February
Just like their nickname, Albirex Niigata (Singapore)’s style of play can be described as classy and graceful. Over the past couple of years, the White Swans have developed into a smooth outfit which can pass any S.League teams to literal death.
However something has to give way in the neverending fight between style and substance. Along with Tanjong Pagar, Albirex were the joint-lowest scorers amongst the top six teams last year. It was all too apparent in their season-opener against Brunei DPMM where they created a number of notable chances without hitting the target.
New gaffer Tatsuyuki Okuyama will have to ensure hotshot Kazuki Sakamoto and his fellow attackers find the crucial final product starting with Thursday night’s game against the Young Tigers.
Can Tigers continue good form at ‘happy hunting ground’ Jalan Besar?
Woodlands Wellington vs Balestier Khalsa, Friday 28 February
Five wins and one draw in their last seven games at the ground – Balestier Khalsa might as well start calling Jalan Besar Stadium their home away from home.
The Tigers always seem to produce some magical results whenever they play on the synthetic surface – not to mention the stunning 4-0 demolition of DPMM in the League Cup final last year, and their fans will hope for more of the same when they take on the Rams at the same venue in Friday night’s televised fixture.
If Marko Kraljevic’s men can replicate the attacking masterclass shown in their last game against Courts Young Lions, they may well notch up yet another delightful result at Jalan Besar and stay top of the pile.
Who will come out trumps in the battle of British wits?
Brunei DPMM vs Warriors FC, Friday 28 February
One is a notable name who has experience coaching at the highest level, while the other is an ambitious young fellow who is striving to find his feet in his second year in the S.League. Friday night’s clash between Brunei DPMM and Warriors FC serves up an interesting sub-plot, with two British coaches going head-to-head at Bandar Seri Begawan.
Former Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean will look to build on DPMM's good start, while his opposite number Alex Weaver will be looking to make an impact in his first full season at the helm for the Warriors.
With both sides looking to improve on their disappointing league positions from last season, it will be interesting to see how the two Brits line up tactically.
Turkey trip a wasted one for Young Lions?
Tampines Rovers vs Courts Young Lions, Saturday 1 March
The swords were out on various social media platforms following the Courts Young Lions’ heavy opening defeat to Balestier and the talking points revolved largely around the usefulness of their one-month pre-season training tour in Turkey.
Despite some creditable results achieved against a few top international and club sides in that exercise, Aide Iskandar’s boys were unable to showcase that improvement in their first league outing of 2014. Things will not come any easier this weekend as they take on reigning champions Tampines Rovers away on Saturday night.
Irregardless of the impending result, it is important that the Young Lions put up a grittier display as compared to last Sunday. That could largely depend on whether Aide continues to deploy Anumanthan Mohan Kumar in a centre-half role, or opts to reinstate the hardman in the middle of the park where he truly belongs.
Can the Protectors get their season back on track?
Home United vs Geylang International, Saturday 1 March
As the cliché goes ‘a week is a long time in football’. The early optimism revolving around Home United has gone down a fair bit after two one-nil defeats in the space of four days. Widely touted as favourites for the title this season, alarm bells will be raised if they do not pick up a win against a troubled Geylang International side this Saturday.
As shown in the opening-day defeat to Tampines, they will need to display more cutting edge in the attacking third. With Indra Sahdan and Fazrul Nawaz still out injured, plus Qiu Li serving a two-game suspension, the Protectors will hope that Bruno Castenheira recovers from an injury sustained last Friday. If not, marquee man Lee Kwan-Woo will have to bear most of the attacking responsibilities as they attempt to breach the Eagles backline.
Photo Credit: Tanjong Pagar United FC