Match Previews

Albirex Niigata vs Tampines Rovers: Do Stags believe their title credentials?

S.League | Jurong East Stadium | Sat Aug 19 | 7.30pm

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Tampines’ chance to seek revenge after Albirex dumped them out of the Singapore Cup.

THE LOWDOWN

The Stags’ ageing defence has been watertight all season long, but the likes of Mustafic Fahrudin, Daniel Bennett, Madhu Mohana and Izwan Mahbud failed to stop Albirex from scoring a whopping seven goals against them over the two-leg Singapore Cup quarter-finals.  

ALBIREX RECENT FORM

  • Albirex Niigata S 2–1 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
  • Warriors 1–2 Albirex Niigata S (S.League)
  • Albirex Niigata S 5–0 Geylang International (S.League)
  • Tampines Rovers 1–5 Albirex Niigata S (Singapore Cup)
  • Albirex Niigata S 2–0 Tampines Rovers (Singapore Cup)

Aside from their cup performances, Tampines are the most in-form side in the S.League at the moment, based on their last five games.

They have collected 13 points out of a maximum 15 and are nine points behind leaders Albirex with two games in hand. They also share the joint-best defensive record in the S.League with the defending champions.

On the other hand, the White Swans will be looking to flaunt their dominance over local clubs at their home ground on Saturday.

The Japanese side might have taken a step towards winning its second silverware of the season after the win over Tampines on August 13 – sending them into the semi-finals of the Singapore Cup – but the league is far from over and they have to keep up the momentum to keep second-placed Tampines at bay.

TEAM NEWS

Albirex will be boosted by the return of hotshot forward Tsubasa Sano, who is currently the league’s joint-top scorer with 18 goals to his name.

TAMPINES RECENT FORM

  • Tampines Rovers 1–4 Geylang International (League Cup)
  • Balestier Khalsa 3–0 Tampines Rovers (League Cup)
  • Tampines Rovers 2–0 DPMM (S.League)
  • Tampines Rovers 1–5 Albirex Niigata S (Singapore Cup)
  • Albirex Niigata S 2–0 Tampines Rovers (Singapore Cup)

The 22-year-old missed Albirex’s last two games due to injury and will be eager to regain his starting spot on Saturday.

Recovering from surgery, talismanic Tampines forward Khairul Amri will most likely not be fit for the whole game, but will be hoping to make any minutes count at Jurong East Stadium.

With Singapore international Mohana easing his way back into the starting 11 and finding his form, he will be looking to improve on his performances from the last two games.

His partnership with Fahrudin, Bennett and Izwan mean expectations are high and they have to dig deep and grit it out against Albirex’s high-flying forwards.

KEY BATTLE – DANIEL BENNETT vs TSUBASA SANO

Three-time S.League winner Daniel Bennett is one of, if not the most experienced defenders in the league. With 136 appearances for Singapore, Bennett is also the most-capped player in the history of the Republic’s team.

But at 39 years old, it will be interesting to see how he deals with the energy and tenacity of 22-year-old Tsubasa Sano.

Sano will no doubt attempt to prove his mettle against the centre-back, using his speed and trickery versus Bennett’s wealth of experience.

This Tampines line-up lost to Albirex in the Singapore Cup. Can they turn the tide?

THE COACHES

After their humiliating 5-1 home defeat to Albirex in the first leg of the Singapore Cup quarter-finals, Tampines head coach Jurgen Raab threw in the towel.

“Now for us it is finished with the Singapore Cup," he said. "We must now prepare well for the second leg and show a good performance on Sunday and the S.League match a week after that.”

They managed to stem the bleeding in the second leg, losing 2-0, but come Saturday it’s time for Raab to walk the walk and outsmart counterpart Kazuaki Yoshinaga, who will be hoping for yet another stellar performance from his relatively young side.

The White Swans just keep adding to their collection

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • Albirex are on a 10-game unbeaten run; they last lost to Home United 2-1 in July in the league.
  • On the other hand, Tampines have suffered four losses in their last five games, albeit with all of the defeats coming in cup competitions.
  • The last time Tampines beat Albirex was last season’s final game, which saw the Stags thrash the champions 5-1.

PREDICTION

Albirex 2-1; despite all of Raab and co.’s efforts, Albirex have all the hunger in the world and will be thirsting for these three points to widen the gap at the top. 

Photos: FAS