Albirex Niigata (S) vs Balestier Khalsa: Tigers looking to halt the White Swans Express
Balestier Khalsa’s chance to show they are back on form
Balestier have had a torrid start to the season, as they went eight games without a victory.
Albirex Niigata (S) Form
- Albirex 3-0 Young Lions (S.League)
- Brunei DPMM 1-2 Albirex (S.League)
- Albirex 1-0 Tampines Rovers (S.League)
- Home United 0-3 Albirex (S.League)
- Albirex 2-0 Hougang United (S.League)
Balestier Khalsa Form
- Balestier 3-0 New Radiant (S.League)
- Balestier 2-0 Young Lions (S.League)
- DPMM 3-1 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
- Balestier 0-3 Kaya FC (AFC Cup)
- Tampines Rovers 1-0 Balestier (S.League)
Injuries to foreigners Emir Lotinac and Robert Pericic did not help matters, as the threadbare squad had to cope with the heavy schedule of competing in both the S.League and AFC Cup.
But after beating Garena Young Lions to claim their first three league points of the season, the Tigers recorded a consecutive win by beating New Radiant 3-0 in their AFC Cup match.
It appears Balestier are hitting form just in time as the season approaches the halfway mark but they will be given a severe test when they go up against Albirex Niigata (S).
The White Swans have been imperious since they lost 2-0 to Warriors FC and have won five in a row since to sit atop the league table.
A strong defence has been the basis of their consistent performances, with four clean sheets kept in their last five games.
For the goal-shy Tigers, who have only scored five goals in nine matches so far – the joint-lowest with Young Lions – this will mean bad news.
Both sides played out a 1-1 draw the first time they met earlier in the season but even then Balestier struggled to break down a disciplined Albirex side.
Neither team have any suspensions to deal with too.
Key Battle: Miroslav Kristic vs Yosuke Nozawa
It took him 11 games to break his scoring duck, but Kristic finally did it when Balestier played the Young Lions.
The Tigers will count upon Kristic to maintain his form, but he will not have it easy against the current best goalkeeper in the league.
Nozawa has been outstanding since he joined the White Swans last year and he was a huge reason why his team had the best defence in the league last year, with only 17 goals conceded.
The White Swans look set to replicate their feat last year, with only six goals let in so far. Nozawa will be a key obstacle to Kristic’s hopes of scoring a goal.
Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic has always emphasised on putting his best eleven and he should not be looking to make much changes to the team that has won their last two games.
Albirex coach Naoki Naruo on the other hand has proved to be more ruthless, as he showed in his side’s last game. Giant striker Kazuki Mine was taken off after only 35 minutes of play for his lack of effort.
Win or lose, Naruo might make drastic changes to his starting line-up if he feels it will benefit his team.
Facts and Figures
Past Five Meetings
- Balestier 1-1 Albirex (S.League, Feb’ 16)
- Balestier 1-0 Albirex (S.League, Oct’ 15)
- Balestier 1-4 Albirex (Singapore Cup, Aug’ 15)
- Albirex 1-0 Balestier (Singapore Cup, Aug’ 15)
- Albirex 2-1 Balestier (League Cup, Oct’ 14)
Albirex have the best defence in the league (only six goals conceded).
Balestier’s top league scorer is a defender, Fadli Kamis (two goals).
Albirex have scored an average of two goals every game
Balestier only won one game in the five times they faced Albirex in all competitions last year
Balestier are looking every bit confident after they secured their first league win and they could hold Albirex to a draw. This might end in a stale 0-0 draw.