Home United vs Balestier Khalsa: Tired teams with point to prove
- 11/06/16 Garena Young Lions 2-2 Home (S.League)
- 26/05/16 Home 2-1 Hougang United (SG Cup)
- 19/05/16 Home 5-0 Brunei DPMM (S.League)
- 13/05/16 Tampines Rovers 1-2 Home (S.League)
- 29/04/16 Home 3-2 Hougang United (S.League)
A mental and physical test for both sides.
The Protectors slipped up in their bid to keep pace with leaders Albirex Niigata (S) and Tampines Rovers - both of whom picked up victories - after being surprisingly held by Garena Young Lions. Sloppy errors saw them concede twice and while they did well to salvage a point, it could easily have been three points lost instead of two.
That saw their winning streak in the league stop at four, though that is four times the number of wins their upcoming opponents have picked up this season.
The Tigers were also involved in a 2-2 thriller but were instead the victims of an uncannily similar comeback, with Hougang United also going two goals behind first before claiming a point with a 90th-minute equaliser.
That must have been a tough result to swallow for the Toa Payoh-based side, who are yet to win in their last four games.
Both coaches have to pick their men up from disappointment and prepare them to bounce back, though fatigue will also be likely to have an impact on their strategies.
- 10/06/16 Balestier 2-2 Hougang (S.League)
- 20/05/16 Warriors FC 1-1 Balestier (S.League)
- 14/05/16 Balestier 1-3 Geylang International (S.League)
- 10/05/16 Kitchee SC 4-0 Balestier (S.League)
- 06/05/16 Albirex Niigata (S) 6-0 Balestier (S.League)
Home are playing for the second time in four days and while Balestier have an extra day of rest, both will be involved in four more matches each after this meeting; no other sides will play more than five games this month.
Playing six times in 20 days for Home and 21 for Balestier will undoubtedly take its toll during the fasting month of Ramadan and both coaches will have to decide how much they want to rotate their squads for this meeting.
Faris Ramli is expected to return to the starting line-up after playing a substitute role in the previous game due to exertions on international duty. Captain Juma’at Jantan is recovering well from his hamstring injury but will not be ready just yet. R. Aaravin, Ang Zhi Wei and Nur Hizami remain on the treatment table.
Syafiq Zainal returns from suspension to bolster Balestier’s attacking options. Left-back Ho Wai Loon did not make the team in the last game and remains an injury doubt.
Key Battle: Abdil Qaiyyim vs Niko Tokic
Life in Singapore got off to a dream start on the pitch for Niko Tokic, who got on the score-sheet just ten minutes into his Balestier debut.
The 28-year-old’s link-up with Miroslav Kristic, who has struggled to lead the line on his own this season, was promising and that partnership looks to have lent the Tigers a more formidable attacking presence.
However, Home centre-back Abdil Qaiyyim is no shrinking violet either and the physical contest between these two should be an intriguing match-up.
Abdil will also have to recover from an error that led to a goal last time out and this challenge with Tokic could be one he will relish.
Philippe Aw had some harsh words for his charges after the last game but should be relatively confident they can play their usual brand of slick football back on home turf.
Home will always try to break teams down with an attacking philosophy and Aw will expect them to use the ball better than they did against Young Lions, where impatience crept in many times and saw them lose possession unnecessarily.
His counterpart Marko Kraljevic prefers a more direct brand of football and leans towards the “anything to win” spectrum. The Croat has been accused of being anti-football on a few occasions, but he has found a style that suits his team and they give every team a tough time.
Balestier will get stuck in as they usually do and try to frustrate the uniformed giants, while aiming to capitalise on any opportunities that come their way.
Facts and Figures
Past five meetings
- 03/04/16 Balestier 0-1 Home (S.League)
- 26/10/15 Home 2-0 Balestier (S.League)
- 03/08/15 Balestier 1-1 Home (S.League)
- 08/04/15 Home 3-1 Balestier (S.League)
- 07/11/14 Balestier 3-1 Home (SG Cup final)
- Home striker Ken Ilsø is one league goal short of equalling his overall tally from last season (11).
- He has scored more goals (10) than the entire Balestier team put together (9).
- Eleven different players have made at least one league assist for Home, joint-most with Warriors FC.
- Home are unbeaten at Bishan Stadium this season, winning three of their five games there.
- Balestier’s last away league win came 11 games ago against Harimau Muda in September 2015.
- They have lost seven times so far, as many as they did for the whole of last season.
- Balestier are the only team not have been awarded a penalty this season.
- Both Home and Balestier are the only sides not to have scored from outside the penalty area.
We could see plenty of tired legs out there and it will boil down to who wants this more. Tough call, but go for a 2-1 Home win.