Balestier Khalsa vs Home United: Will the Protectors pile more misery on depleted Tigers?

S.League | Toa Payoh Stadium | Sun 3 Apr | 7.30pm

Billed as

Balestier Khalsa Form

  • Hougang United 1-0 Balestier (S.League)
  • Kaya FC 1-0 Balestier (AFC Cup)
  • Balestier 1-1 Warriors FC (S.League)
  • Balestier 1-0 Kitchee SC (AFC Cup)
  • Geylang International 0-0 Balestier (S.League)
  • Balestier 1-1 Albirex (S.League)

Home United Form

  • Home 4-1 Garena Young Lions (S.League)
  • Brunei DPMM 2-1 Home (S.League)
  • Home 1-1 Tampines Rovers (S.League)
  • Hougang United 1-0 Home (S.League)
  • Home 2-2 Warriors FC (S.League)

Balestier’s opportunity to get the monkey off their back as the only team yet to win a game this season.

The lowdown

The stats do not lie. Six weeks into the 2016 S.League season, only one out of nine teams have yet to record a win – Balestier Khalsa.

Three draws and two losses meant they currently lie second from bottom, just ahead of the Garena Young Lions due to a better goal difference.

Losing a number of key players in the off-season has clearly not helped their cause, although they remain a solid unit under the astute Marko Kraljevic.

It is interesting to note while they are the lowest scorers in the league with just two goals so far, the Tigers also boast the joint-best defensive record along with Geylang International – having leaked just four goals.

A tough April lies ahead with six games (four in the S.League, two in the AFC Cup) in 24 days. It is definitely a huge ask for a squad which is considerably smaller than those of big guns like Tampines Rovers and Geylang International.

This may not be the best time to face Home United, who finally notched their first win of the season two weeks ago by easily dispatching the Young Lions 4-1, either.

After a frustrating start that saw them draw two and lost two, they finally stood up to be counted with Ken Ilso, Zulfahmi Arifin and Khairul Nizam (two) all getting on the scoresheet that night.

The Protectors will look to build on that momentum against a Balestier side that is missing a number of key players as they look to close the five-point gap between them and pacesetters Hougang United.

Home's attack finally clicked against Garena Young Lions to devastating effect

With matches against Albirex Niigata (S), Geylang, Warriors FC and Hougang all coming up this month, it is imperative that they seize the opportunity to collect all three points.

Team News

As mentioned, Balestier are rather depleted at the moment. Defenders Ho Wai Loon, Ahmad Syahir, midfield hard man Shah Hirul and forwards Fadhil Noh and Robert Pericic are all ruled out for this game due to injuries.

Fortunately, they can call on the services of the fit-again Miroslav Kristic, who will be looking to get off the mark this season. The Croatian forward has yet to score since hitting a brace in a 4-3 victory against Tampines last November.

As for Home, Faris Ramli will continue to miss out due to his persistent groin problem. R Aaravin remains a few weeks away from fitness, but former Boavista SC youngster Mahathir Azeman is finally available for selection after passing his 2.4km test.

Last Five Meetings

  • Home 2-0 Balestier (S.League, Oct ’15)
  • Balestier 1-1 Home (S.League, Aug ’15)
  • Home 3-1 Balestier (S.League, Apr ’15)
  • Balestier 3-1 Home (SG Cup, Nov ’14)
  • Balestier 0-1 Home (S.League, Oct ’14)

Those that were away from international duty also returned unscathed, including the Lions’ trio of Zulfahmi, Nizam and Juma’at Jantan.

Irfan and Ikhsan Fandi, who represented the national Under-21s, will likely feature at some stage, with this likely to be their last game before they enlist for National Service. 

Key Battle: Fadli Kamis vs Sirina Camara

While the attention will be on Home’s goal-getters Ilso and Nizam, it should not be forgotten who has been providing the steady supply to them.

French left-back Camara has a barnstorming game the last time out, constantly surging down the left channel and putting a number of wicked crosses – one of which was converted clinically by Ilso.

Thus Balestier right-back Fadli Kamis, who has played every minute of the Tigers’ campaign so far, will have to be on his toes to prevent those balls from going into his area.

Balestier full-back Fadli faces a titanic battle against his French counterpart

The Coaches

It will be an interesting battle of wits between two coaches, whose coaching philosophies are rather different.

Balestier’s Marko Kraljevic’s game plan revolves around a solid core, with Gary Loo and former Home man Fazli Ayob likely to provide the grit in the middle of the park.

Meanwhile, Home’s Philippe Aw favours a more flexible style with attackers Ilso, Nizam, Ambroise Begue and Azhar Sairudin often interchanging positions throughout a game.

Facts and Figures

  • Home have the edge on the overall head-to-heads, winning 22 times out of 39 encounters. Balestier won just eight times, while the other seven games ended up in draws.
  • Home have yet to win away from home this season, with one draw and one defeat. 
  • Balestier have yet to lose in their last eight matches at Toa Payoh. Their last defeat at the venue was a 2-1 defeat to Warriors FC last May.

FourFourTwo prediction

Balestier 1 Home 2. It’s never easy playing the gritty Tigers, but Home should have enough quality at their disposal to pick up their second win in as many matches.