Match Previews

Geylang International vs Balestier Khalsa: Will the Eagles continue to soar?

S.League | Bedok Stadium | Thur 3 Mar| 7.30pm 

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A prime opportunity for Geylang to continue their unbeaten start to the season

The lowdown

Two teams who have started the season in contrasting fashion, will come head to head in the S.League this week when the Tigers travel to the Bedok Stadium to face the high-flying Geylang International.

Balestier Khalsa who opted only to sign one player from the LionsXII, reserve forward Syafiq Zainal, were tipped to struggle this season and their disappointing start has been no surprise.

The Tigers fell to a 1-0 defeat to Young Lions before salvaging a point against Albirex Niigata (S) last time out. In the AFC Cup, they fought to a 2-2 draw with Maldivian side New Radiant.

While there were plenty of positives to draw upon from their last two stalemates — the players showing plenty of grit and determination for one —the Tigers will need more of those qualities against a Geylang side which looks unstoppable at the moment.

Geylang Intl Form

  • Garena Young Lions 0-2 Geylang (S.League)
  • Geylang 1-1 Brunei DPMM (S.League)
  • Tampines Rovers 3-3 Geylang (S.League)
  • Geylang 8-0 Singapore Cricket Club (Friendly)
  • Geylang 6-0 Happy Feet (Friendly)

Balestier Form

  • Balestier 1-1 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)
  • New Radiant 2-2 Balestier Khalsa (AFC Cup)
  • Garena Young Lions 1-0 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
  • Balestier Khalsa 1-3 Ceres FC (Friendly)
  • Brunei DPMM 4-0 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)

Not only do the Eagles look ebullient and sparkle in attack, they also seemed to have found the magical formula needed to shore up their defence.

Led by veteran centre-back Daniel Bennett, the backline has stepped up since Geylang leaked three goals in the 3-3 draw with Tampines Rovers on opening day.

While the Eagles’ record against the Tigers is dismal with only one win in the last 10 matches, the chance for this Geylang side to improve on it is there for the taking

But the number that Geylang would be most concerned about, is only the three points they can collect to build further momentum in what could be an unlikely title charge.

Team News:

The hosts will welcome back the fleet-footed Amy Recha for this tie after the winger sat out the Young Lions victory due to a suspension.

With the exception of Shahfiq Ghani, who continues to recover from a long-term injury, the Eagles have a fully-fit squad to choose from.

For Balestier, the foreign duo of Robert Pericic and Emir Lotinac and SEA Games defender Ho Wai Loon are set to miss out once again through injury.

Jamil Ali’s impact off the bench last time out may see him being thrown into the starting XI.

READ ALSO: Tigers' super-sub Jamil has got Kraljevic purring

Shah Hirul in action against Albirex Niigata (S)

Key Battle: Nor Azli Yusoff vs Shah Hirul

In a keenly contested match such as this, the team that is able to win the battle in midfield is likely to come out on top and the teams’ respective hard men in that area are therefore crucial in this fixture.  

Shah Hirul, 29, left Bedok Stadium to join the Tigers at the start of this season, bringing to an end a 13-year association with the Eagles.

Armed with a fantastic range of passing, Shah is also not one to back out of a tackle. On the other side, Nor Azli Yusoff has been the Eagles’ main hatchet man in midfield this season and has started the season in good form.

Both men were part of the Eagles’ midfield last season but this time, they come face to face and will put it all on the line to ensure that their respective teams come out on top at the end.

The Coaches

Geylang coach Hasrin Jailani could soon earn the moniker of being the S.League’s own tinker man.

In each of his side’s three matches so far, the rookie coach has already fielded three different starting elevens with each side deployed in a different formation.

A back three against Brunei DPMM was changed to a flat back four against the Young Lions, so it remains to be seen just how the Eagles will shape up for this encounter against the Tigers.

Regardless of how they line-up however, the Eagles’ thirst to attack with speed is one element that has been consistent in their performances so far.

In the opposition dugout, coach Marko Kraljevic’s direct approach is yet to yield a win for Balestier this season after two matches. But as he showed in the 1-1 draw with Albirex, Marko has a knack of making the right substitutions at the right time and his changes off the bench is something to keep an eye on in this match as well.

Past Five meetings

  • Geylang  2-2 Balestier (S.League, Nov '15)
  • Geylang  2-2 Balestier (S.League, May '15)
  • Geylang  1-2 Balestier (S.League, Mar '15)
  • Geylang  1-2 Balestier (S.League, July '14)
  • Geylang  1-0 Balestier (S.League, July '14)

Facts and Figures

  • Geylang have scored six goals so far with each goal scored by a different player (Stanely, Sahil, Carlos Delgado, Amy, Faritz Hameed and Branko Cubrilo)

  • In their last 10 matches against, the Eagles have only earned one victory

FourFourTwo prediction

Geylang International 3 Balestier Khalsa 0. The Eagles have started the season brilliantly and although the Tigers showed plenty of fight in the 1-1 draw with Albirex, I expect them to be put away with ease by Geylang.