Match Previews

Geylang International vs Balestier Khalsa: Chance for Eagles to go fourth

Geylang vs Balestier - S.League

S.League | Bedok Stadium | Thurs 25 Aug| 7.30pm 

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Excellent opportunity for Geylang to close the gap between them and third-placed Brunei DPMM to just one point (for at least 24 hours).

The lowdown

Geylang International Form

  • Garena Young Lions 0-2 Geylang (S.League)
  • Geylang 1-1 Brunei DPMM (S.League)
  • Tampines Rovers 2-1 Geylang (S.League)
  • Hougang United 1-2 Geylang (League Cup Plate Final)
  • Geylang 1-0 Warriors FC (League Cup Plate SF)

Balestier Khalsa Form

  • Balestier 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)
  • Garena Young Lions 1-3 Balestier (S.League)
  • Hougang United 2-1 Balestier (League Cup Plate SF)
  • Balestier 2-2 Home United (League Cup)
  • Albirex Niigata (S) 2-0 Balestier (League Cup)

It’s been interesting to see teams from third to sixth swapping positions regularly over the last few weeks.

Albirex Niigata (S) and Tampines Rovers are most likely to finish as the top two, but it is still pretty much anybody’s game when it comes to the second runner-ups position.

DPMM currently take up that spot, but Hougang United, Home United and Geylang are all capable of catching up.

The local trio are also fighting amongst themselves to finish as the second-highest ranked local club, as that may qualify them for the 2017 AFC Cup (unless Balestier Khalsa win the Singapore Cup).

Geylang have a number of ambitious players in their ranks like Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Safirul Sulaiman, Gabriel Quak and Sahil Suhaimi who are looking to progress to the next level, so it is imperative that they give their best shot for the five remaining league games and try to make it into the AFC Cup.

A win in this game will give them a good morale booster as it will enable them to leapfrog both Hougang and Home to go fourth in the table.

It is a starkly different situation for Balestier though. While they can pip Hougang, Home and Geylang to the second AFC Cup spot by winning the Singapore Cup, it remains a mammoth task to overcome Albirex in the two-legged semi-finals.

Realistically, it is tough to catch up with the top six in the league, so the best the Tigers can possibly fight for is to avoid finishing in the bottom two – something which has not happened since the 2009 season.

A victory will help them close the gap between them and third-from-bottom Warriors FC to just one point for at least 24 hours, before the latter hosts cellar-dwellers Garena Young Lions the following night.

Team News

Geylang are still sweating on key man Mark Hartmann’s fitness, with the Philippines international rated as 50-50 to make it back for this game.

Fellow forward Amy Recha is also a doubt after sustaining a knock in a Prime League game over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the big miss for Balestier will be first-choice goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam, who is recuperating after sustaining a bruised forehead, grazed nose and dislocated a finger in their 1-0 defeat to Albirex last Friday.

His spot in between the sticks is likely to be taken by the young Naqiuddin Nodin, who kept a clean sheet after coming on that game and also impressed in the recent League Cup tournament.

Midfield playmaker Fazli Ayob will miss out once again due to injury while defender Hanafi Salleh is suspended, but the good news is that Croatian Emir Lotinac is ready to return after coming through unscathed in a Prime League game.

Key Battle: Shawal Anuar vs Sheikh Abdul Hadi

Abdul Hadi - Balestier Khalsa - S.League

Abdul Hadi has face Hartmann before in TNP League Cup

After a slow start to the season, Shawal is gradually finding form – utilising his pace and trickery on the ball well to zip past opponents in the attacking third.

Touted for a surprise call-up to the national team, the 25-year-old Geylang attacker will surely relish this opportunity to prove his burgeoning credentials to V Sundramoorthy.

In his way is the sturdy Hadi, who has been an ever-present (missing just one of 30 games in all competitions) since joining Balestier at the start of the year.

It remains to be seen how the 24-year-old centre-back will handle the threat of the former, given that he is on a disciplinary tightrope with third yellow cards (one more will see him ruled out of their next league game).

The Coaches

Not for the first time this season, fans and journalists alike are wondering what kind of line-up will Geylang coach Hasrin Jailani be fielding.

The first-year head coach has tinkered with his starting eleven several times this season, with even big-name players like Daniel Bennett, Isa Halim and Sahil not guaranteed to feature from the get-go.

On the other hand, Balestier counterpart Marko Kraljevic usually sticks to his tried and trusted formula, which includes fielding an all-Croatian strike partnership in Niko Tokic and Miroslav Kristic.

Last Five Meetings

  • Balestier 2-2 Geylang (League Cup, Jul ’16)
  • Balestier 1-3 Geylang (S.League, May ’16)
  • Geylang 0-0 Balestier (S.League, Mar ‘16)
  • Balestier 2-2 Geylang (S.League, Sep ’15)
  • Geylang 2-2 Balestier (S.League, May ’15)

Facts and Figures

  • Balestier have yet to beat Geylang on three occasions this year - drawing 0-0 and losing 3-1 in the league, before a 2-2 draw in the League Cup.
  • Three of the last five head-to-head clashes ended up in 2-2 draws.
  • Geylang have scored the most goals from outside the box in the league this season with five.
  • Balestier have conceded the joint-second highest amount of goals from penalties (along with Young Lions) – four. Only Home have more (five).

FourFourTwo prediction

Balestier will make it tough for Geylang, but the Eagles have enough quality to eke out a narrow 1-0 win.

Photos: S.League