Balestier Khalsa vs Hougang United: Can new signing Tokic make a difference?
Balestier’s chance to kick-start their mid-season revival
Balestier Khalsa Form
- Warriors FC 1-1 Balestier (S.League)
- Balestier 1-3 Geylang International (S.League)
- Kitchee 4-0 Balestier (AFC Cup)
- Albirex Niigata (S) 6-0 Balestier (S.League)
- Balestier 3-0 New Radiant (AFC Cup)
Hougang United Form
Home United 2-1 Hougang (Singapore Cup)
Hougang 1-1 Garena Young Lions (S.League)
Brunei DPMM 3-2 Hougang (S.League)
Hougang 1-1 Tampines Rovers (S.League)
Home United 3-2 Hougang (S.League)
The lesser said about Balestier’s first half of the S.League season, the better.
With only one win in 12 games, Balestier looked like mere shadows of themselves last year, when they were in contention for the S.League title.
Much of it has been put down to the absence of Robert Pericic, who was unavailable due to injury. The striker has since been released at the end of May in order for Balestier to bring in a new foreign signing.
The club cannot be faulted for thinking a lack of goals have affected their ability to compete; they are the lowest scoring side in the league with seven goals in 12 matches and forward Miroslav Kristic has only chipped in with two goals.
Balestier hope that their scoring woes will be addressed by the arrival of Niko Tokic, whose most prolific season came in 2014, when he scored 19 goals and earned the Golden Boot in Lithuania’s top division.
At the Hougang camp, they have been spluttering ever since Home United handed them a 3-2 defeat at the end of April.
The Cheetahs have suffered since as they endure a five-game winless run.
As a result, Hougang have suffered a freefall from the top of the league to sit in sixth spot, two places above the Tigers. They are still 11 points above Balestier, that said.
The sooner the Cheetahs get back to winning ways, the greater their chances of finally finishing in the top half of the S.League for the first time in the club’s history.
Balestier will miss Syafiq Zainal due to suspension, while the availability of Tokic is subjected to him receiving his work permit in time.
Ho Wai Loon might be a doubt after suffering an injury during the international break, but he could still feature from the bench.
Hougang will miss long-term absentee Ali Hudzaifi due to his anterior cruciate ligament injury while Huzaifah Aziz is nursing an ankle knock.
Key Battle: Fazli Ayob vs Fumiya Kogure
The battle in midfield might be decisive in which side earns victory in this fixture.
Hougang are a completely different team when Kogure turns out for them as the mercurial playmaker can pick out his teammates with ease while also being a threat from distance with his scorchers.
Fazli must be at his physical best to stick close to the Japanese and deny him any space. Shut down the Japanese and half the battle is won.
Marko Kraljevic will be targeting for maximum points and we can expect him to throw Tokic into the fray in a bid to get more goals, if the striker gets the necessary paperwork completed.
Despite being frustrated with his side’s failing in the first half of the season, you can expect Kraljevic to stick with his philosophy of keeping things tight at the back while instructing his team to attack on the counter.
Hougang coach K.Balagumaran is equally annoyed by his team’s inability to win games but he believes they will come good and that there is no need for much tinkering.
Last Five Meetings
- Hougang 1-0 Balestier (S.League, Mar ‘16)
- Hougang 1-1 Balestier (S.League, Nov ‘16)
- Balestier 3-2 Hougang (S.League, Aug ‘15)
- Balestier 3-2 Hougang (League Cup, July ‘15)
- Hougang 0-1 Balestier (S.League, Apr ‘15)
Facts and Figures
Balestier lead the head-to-head records, beating Hougang 16 times in 33 encounters. The Cheetahs have only beaten Balestier eight times in history.
Balestier have failed to score in six league games so far
Hougang tend to score in the second half of a game, with 62.5% of their goals coming in that period.
Balestier and Hougang are hungry for points but this may result in them cancelling each other out. Balestier 1-1 Hougang.