Hougang United vs Albirex Niigata (S): Will Cheetahs lose steam?

S.League | Hougang Stadium | Mon 3 Jul | 7.30pm

Billed as

Another game too soon for the weary Cheetahs.

The Lowdown

Hougang United form

  • Home United 2-3 Hougang United
  • Hougang United 1-0 Ceres-Negros FC
  • Hougang United 0-3 Tampines Rovers
  • Geylang International 1-1 Hougang United
  • Warriors FC 0-2 Hougang United

Albirex Niigata (S) form

  • Albirex Niigata (S) 0-2 Home United
  • Albirex Niigata (S) 4-0 Brunei DPMM
  • Albirex Niigata (S) 8-0 Garena Young Lions
  • Tampines Rovers 1-4 Albirex Niigata (S)
  • Geylang International 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S)

Hougang United are a side in confidence at the moment, after recording a couple of commendable victories.

They recently defeated AFC Cup ASEAN finalists Ceres-Negros in the RHB Singapore Cup and followed it up with a stunning 3-2 win over title challengers Home United.

This marked the first time the Cheetahs have achieved back-to-back wins in nearly a year. The last time they did so was in August last year, when Hougang beat Home 4-2 and Tampines Rovers 2-1.

The Cheetahs will be looking to build on this momentum as they take on Albirex Niigata (S), who are on the other hand smarting from their first-ever defeat of the season after falling 2-0 to Home United.

The White Swans had many chances in that game but they failed to make them count.

Much will depend on how Albirex respond now, but not many will dare to bet against them bouncing back.

Albirex will have the advantage in this game, enjoying a 10-day break. Hougang played out a gruelling game three days ago in their win over Home and this could take a toll on the team.

Team News:

Albirex will miss centre-back Yasutaka Yanagi’s services as he is suspended for this tie, but they should have a full squad ready for this game.

Hougang coach Philippe Aw shared that his squad suffered plenty of knocks in the game to Home and he will need to assess his players’ fitness.

Iqbal Hussain is still unavailable due to his National Service obligations. 

Key Battle: Atsushi Shirota vs Tsubasa Sano

Hougang defender Atsushi Shirota may have played for Albirex last season, but unfortunately for him, he will not be familiar with the White Swans’ latest hotshot, Sano.

The striker was only brought in to replace Atsushi Kawata this season and he has done remarkably well, scoring 16 goals thus far.

Shirota is strong in the air and unyielding at the back, but he will have his work cut out for him in the battle against his compatriot.

This should be a fierce battle between these two

The Coaches:

Hougang coach Aw has a dilemma on his hands, given his side’s schedule. The Cheetahs will play their second match in three days and are scheduled for a League Cup game against the White Swans again just four days later.

Aw must decide whether to field his strongest 11 or look to rotate his squad.

Albirex coach Yoshinaga Kazuaki though will need a win here to pick his side up. History has shown that one defeat could severely demoralise a team and the coach will not want that, given his side are aiming to replicate their feats of 2016 when they swept all the trophies. 

Philippe Aw will have a decision to make on his team

Facts and figures:

Past Five Meetings

  • Albirex Niigata (S) 2-0 Hougang United (S.League, Apr ‘17)
  • Albirex Niigata (S) 3-0 Hougang United (S.League, Oct ‘16)
  • Hougang United 1-2 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League, Jun ‘16)
  • Albirex Niigata (S) 2-0 Hougang United (S.League, Apr ‘16)
  • Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Hougang United (S.League, Nov ‘15)

  • Albirex failed to score for the first time this season, in their last game.

  • Hougang have lost to Albirex in their last five meetings.

FourFourTwo’s prediction:

If Hougang can maintain their form and energy, they should be able to at least claim a point here. It could end in a 1-1 draw.