Albirex Niigata (S) vs Tampines Rovers: Will White Swans continue from where they left off?

Community Shield/S.League | National Stadium | Sun 26 Feb | 6pm

Billed As

ALBIREX NIIGATA (S) FORM

Albirex 2-0 Tampines (SG Cup Final)

Albirex 1-5 Tampines (S.League)

Home United 3-1 Albirex (S.League)

Albirex 3-0 Hougang United (S.League)

Warriors FC 2-0 Albirex (S.League)

A chance to determine whether Albirex can be as dominant as they were last year. 

The lowdown

The 2017 S.League season will kick off on Sunday evening, when Albirex Niigata (S) take on Tampines Rovers in the Community Shield, which also doubles up as a league game.

Albirex won all four trophies up for grab last year and it began with a 3-2 win over Brunei DPMM in the Community Shield, so they will definitely be fired up to defend their title against Tampines this Sunday.

It will be a new-look Albirex this season, with 18 players brought in to replace the old guards that left at the end of the 2016 season.

Albirex retained just seven players from this history-making 2016 squad

However, if you have followed their pre-season results, the White Swans will still be a force to be reckoned with, Albirex have faced off against Warriors FC, Balestier Khalsa and other S.League opponents in preparation for the new season and their new boys still look capable of slicing open opponents.

The Stags will have to work hard in order to snatch victory away from Albirex. If the memory of a 2-0 defeat to the latter in the 2016 Singapore Cup final is fresh in their minds, the Stags will not be lacking in motivation to exact revenge against the 2016 S.League champions.

TAMPINES ROVERS FORM

Tampines 2-1 Felda United (AFC Cup)

Global FC 2-0 Tampines (AFC Champions League playoffs)

Albirex 2-0 Tampines (SG Cup Final)

Albirex 1-5 Tampines (S.League)

Tampines 2-0 Balestier Khalsa (S.League) 

Tampines will come into this game galvanised by a 2-1 win over Felda United in the AFC Cup earlier this week. They are arguably in better shape too, having started the season earlier than most clubs due to their regional commitments.

Team News

Tampines’ Khairul Amri will not start this game due to fitness issues, as will Singapore international Shahdan Sulaiman. Fazrul Nawaz is still a long-term absentee for the Stags too.

After an especially gruelling game against Felda during midweek, Tampines coach Juergen Raab might be inclined to rotate his players, particularly in midfield.

The White Swans have not reported of any injuries and should have a full squad to select from.

Key Battle: Kento Nagasaki vs Yasir Hanapi

Experience is key to victory and although Albirex have lost a bunch of experienced players, they still have the inspirational Kento Nagasaki.

The 26-year-old midfielder has been in the S.League for a few years and he is an intelligent player who could split open defences or make runs into the box to pose a threat to opponents.

His counterpart will be Yasir Hanapi, whose work rate can ensure Nagasaki does not enjoy as much time on the ball.

Yasir will also need to pull the strings in midfield and help spray passes forward in the absence of Shahdan.

Yasir's industry in midfield is key in stopping Albirex playmaker Nagasaki

The Coaches

Both teams have new coaches in charge this season and both refused to reveal much in the pre-match press conference.

Albirex coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga will be aiming to get his maiden S.League campaign off to a good start though, after the club set him a target of sweeping all trophies again.

The Japanese is a firm believer in playing fast, flowing and attacking football, while he will task his team to defend in numbers and press as much as they can.

Raab adopted a similar approach during his Young Lions days, although it will be hard for his team to main a high-tempo pressing game, especially with veterans like Daniel Bennett and Mustafic Fahrudin in the side.

LAST FIVE MEETINGS

Albirex 2-0 Tampines (SG Cup Final, Oct '16)

Albirex 1-5 Tampines (S.League, Oct '16)

Albirex 4-0 Tampines (League Cup SF, Jul '16)

Tampines 1-0 Albirex (S.League, Jun '16)

Albirex 1-0 Tampines (S.League, Apr '16)

Facts and Figures

  • This will be Tampines’ first Community Shield appearance since 2014, when they last beat Home to clinch the trophy.
  • Tampines are the only club to have won back-to-back Community Shields. Albirex can become the second club to do so if they beat Tampines on Sunday.
  •  This will be the first S.League game to be played at the National Stadium, although Tampines did play Selangor there in an AFC Cup group-stage game last year.

FourFourTwo prediction

Both sides have revamped their squad but still possess quality players. This could end in a 1-1 draw, with Tampines prevailing on penalties to win the Shield... 

Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo