Ceres Negros vs Tampines Rovers: Can Stags banish the demons of yesteryear?

AFC Cup | Panaad Stadium | Tue Mar 7 | 7.30pm   

Billed as

Face-off against foes who trumped Tampines Rovers last season

The lowdown

Tampines Rovers Form

  • Tampines 2-1 Hougang United (S.League)
  • Tampines 1-2 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League/Community Shield)
  • Tampines 2-1 Felda United (AFC Cup)
  • Global FC 2-0 Tampines (AFC Champions League playoffs)
  • Albirex Niigata (S) 2-0 Tampines (SG Cup Final)
 

Ceres Form

  • Hanoi 1-1 Ceres (AFC Cup)
  • Balestier 1-2 Ceres (Singapore Cup)
  • Voltes 1-0 Ceres (UFL)
  • Global 0-5 Ceres (UFL)
  • Ceres 8-0 Laos (UFL)

Tampines Rovers will travel to the ground that caused them much anguish last season, as a 2-1 defeat by Ceres Negros there made their progress to the AFC Cup’s last 16 a nervy affair.

The Stags had to beat Selangor in their final game to guarantee they advanced out of the group stages then and they will want to avoid a similar fate this time around.

Tampines got off to a winning start in the AFC Cup after a 2-1 home triumph over Felda United meant they sit at the top of Group G, as Hanoi and Ceres could only draw 1-1 in the group’s other respective match.

Another win will greatly cement their spot as top dogs in the group, but this will not come easy against foes that they played with four times last season.

Ceres managed to hold the Stags to a draw in their first-ever competitive face off, before defeating them 2-1 at home.

Subsequent visits to the Republic for the Singapore Cup resulted in back-to-back defeats by Tampines but the Busmen showed they were not to be trifled with each time.

Ceres have largely retained the players they had from last season but they will have to cope with a lack of match practise, as their domestic league has not started.

The Busmen have prepared vigorously for the AFC Cup and even came to Singapore earlier in the year to play S.League opponents in friendly matches, with varying success.

They can take heart from compatriots Global FC’s performance though, as the 2016 Philippines champions managed to beat Tampines in the AFC Champions League preliminary round.

Team News

Tampines will continue to miss out on Shahdan Sulaiman, Shakir Hamzah and Fazrul Nawas’ services.

However, they can recall Yasir Hanapi, Madhu Mohana and Ismadi Mukhtar for this tie after the trio served out their suspensions in the S.League tie against Hougang United.

The likes of Sahil Suhaimi and Raspreet Sandhu are also available once again as they were only signed for the AFC Cup.

There is no update from Ceres’ camp but they are expected to have a full squad available for selection.

Key Battle: Yasir Hanapi vs Manuel Ott

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Manuel Ott will be looking to pull the strings in Ceres' attacks

Yasir has not had the best start to the season so far, but he will need to come good in this game for Tampines.

After Izzdin Shafiq left at the end of last season, the Stags have looked a little lightweight in midfield. Opponents have been able to play through the middle and the defence is no longer as protected as they once were.

Hard working he may be, but Yasir has been clumsy in his challenges this season and he will need to sort that out if the Stags want to dominate the central of the park.

By doing so, he can lock down Philippines international Manuel Ott, who can be pretty dynamic with his deep runs.

The forward will most likely go up against Singapore’s AFF Suzuki Cup defensive pairing of Madhu Mohana and Daniel Bennett and he will hope Yasir pays him lesser attention for him to run riot.

The Coaches

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Ceres face Tampines a grand total of four times in 2016

Jurgen Raab finally savoured victory on the bench following the 2-1 win over Hougang, after he was unavailable for the win over Felda and suffered a 2-1 loss to Albirex Niigata (S) in the subsequent match.

Injuries and suspension forced his hand the last game, as he deviated from the 3-4-3 formation and adopted the traditional 4-4-2 system.

But with Yasir, Madhu and Ismadi all back again, Raab would most likely revert to his favoured 3-4-3 system.

Raab also needs to decide whether to start with Khairul Amri once again, after the latter played 80 minutes of action against the Cheetahs. Amri had a hand in all of Tampines’ goals in the last game but his match fitness is still suspect, according to Raab.

Risto Vidakovic is a new face at Ceres, after only being appointed in July last year. However, he will able to draw upon experience from the Singapore Cup face-offs against Tampines.

Vidakovic advocates an attacking game, given the number of Philippines internationals he has at hand, and is expected to instruct his guys to play through the middle and hopefully expose veteran defenders Daniel Bennett and Mustafic Fahrudin’s lack of pace.

Past meetings

  • Ceres 2-3 Tampines (AET) (Singapore Cup, Aug ‘16)
  • Tampines 2-1 Ceres (Singapore Cup, Aug ‘16)
  • Ceres 2-1 Tampines (AFC Cup, Apr ‘16)
  • Tampines 1-1 Ceres (AFC Cup, Mar ‘16)
 

Facts and Figures

  • Both teams played each other four times in 2016, with Ceres avoiding defeat in the first two ocassions. However, Tampines then beat them twice in the Singapore Cup.

  • Ceres topped the AFC Cup group last year when they were grouped with Tampines Rovers.

  • Ceres have only suffered a total of two defeats at the regional stage, out of nine games since 2015.

FourFourTwo prediction

This is not an easy game for Tampines and a 1-1 draw will be a decent result...

Photos: S.League