FFT’s 2017 S.League Preview: Balestier Khalsa

The Tigers were not in the top half of the league for the first time in three years and things do not look set to change, in all honesty. Here’s FFT’s preview of the team... 

Team summary:

Having secured deals for three Myanmar internationals two weeks prior to the new season, worry lines at Toa Payoh should have simmered down for Balestier Khalsa.

The triumvirate of Aung Kyaw Naing, Nanda Lin Kyaw Chit and Kyaw Zayar Win from Nay Pyi Taw and Yadanarbon and Ayeyawady United respectively, have dislodged Marko Kraljevics’ Balkan Brigade of Miroslav Kristic, Niko Tokic, and Emir Lotinac as the Tigers look at fresh avenues to improve their attack ahead of the upcoming season.

It is understandable that the arrival of the Burmese players give hope of key improvement in the squad in its attacking prowess. The Tigers were tied with the lowest amounts of goals scored last season, with 23 scored in 24 games — an average of just under one per game.

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Nanda Lin is one of the new foreign imports at Balestier

Key signing(s):  

Aung Kyaw Naing (Nay Pyi Taw), Nanda Lin Kyaw Chit (Yadanarbon), Kyaw Zayar Win (Ayeyawady United), Raihan Rahman (Hougang United)

Key departure(s):

Miroslav Kristic (NK Imotski), Niko Tokic (Free), Emir Lotinac (FK Vojvodina)

Coach summary:

The 51-year-old Marko Kraljevic suffered his worst season with the Tigers in 2016, having finish second to bottom.

Injury ruled out Robert Pericic for the first half of the season, subsequently resulting in his release and the striker returned to Croatia without making a single appearance for the Tigers, while the other foreigners suffered their fair share of injuries and goal droughts to add to Kraljevic’s woes.

A shrewd tactician who is known to play counter-attacking style of football, it is apparent Kraljevic is looking to unleash his fresh Burmese imports upon their opponents

The foundation of his team is experience, with veteran goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam safeguarding in between the sticks. Defenders Sheikh Hadi and midfielder and new signing Raihan Rahman will add the necessary steel that the team needs.

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Ashrul is one of the young locals joining Balestier

Player to watch: Kyaw Zayar Win

The 25-year-old Kyaw is one of the most entertaining attacking-midfielders in Southeast Asia. He first came into spotlight in 2011 when he bagged four goals for Myanmar who brought home the bronze medal.

Primarily known for his speed, the midfielder will be a menace in front of goal and he has a couple of shots in his locker.

In 2014, Kyaw was playing for Perak in the Malaysia Super League before injuries forced him to return home.

Away from his homeland once more, the goal-scoring midfielder will be hoping to have a more impactful stay this time round.

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Balestier are hoping Kyaw Zayar Win can inject some much-needed creativity

Expectations: A struggle to finish in the top half

New year, new Balestier? That remains to be the question looming over Toa Payoh Stadium.

The formula for success this season for Kraljevic’s men would be to integrate the young Singaporean team with the Burmese attacking trio. The Burmese players are known to play with flair and speed but first, they will need some time to acclimatise the S.League.

Meanwhile many young Singaporean players would be eyeing the spot for the SEA Games this year. This realistically boils down to a more driven Balestier side but with many teams in the S.League strengthening even more shrewdly – Tampines, Geylang and Warriors being the prime example, it is hard to imagine Balestier finishing in the top four of the table come end of the season but perhaps a surprise in the two available cups might be on the agenda.

Photos: Balestier Khalsa