League Cup final, Albirex Niigata (S) vs Warriors FC: Can Warriors salvage some local pride?

League Cup | Jalan Besar Stadium | Fri 21 Jul | 7.30pm  

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A chance to end Albirex’s dominance in the League Cup.

THE LOWDOWN

Albirex’s form

  • Hougang United 2 - 1 Albirex
  • Hougang United 0 - 0 Albirex
  • Albirex 2 - 0 Warriors
  • Home United 0 - 1 Albirex
  • Albirex 4 - 0 Geylang International

Albirex will have a chance to etch their name into the history books once again when they take on Warriors FC in the League Cup final on Friday.

The White Swans became the first team to successfully retain the League Cup last year and they can now make it three times in a row — a feat that will make them the most successful club in the tournament, with four first-place finishes overall.

Warriors’ Form

  • Warriors 1 - 0 DPMM
  • Warriors 4 - 3 Home United
  • Albirex Niigata S 2 - 0 Warriors
  • Hougang United 2 - 2 Warriors
  • DPMM 1-5 Warriors

Currently, Albirex are joint-most winners alongside Brunei DPMM.

Standing in their way though, will be Warriors FC, the only local side left standing.

The White Swans will be confident going into the game, after they comfortably beat the Warriors 2-0 in the group stage. A 4-0 win over Geylang International at the semi-finals will only serve to fuel their confidence.

However, the Warriors too are in good shape after a thoroughly convincing 5-1 victory over DPMM in the other semi.

The Warriors will also hope to put on a good showing to win their first-ever League Cup title and end Albirex’s stranglehold on the trophy.

TEAM NEWS

Hyrulnizam Juma’at is available again, after missing out on the last game due to suspension. However, the Warriors will be sweating on Hafiz Osman's condition, as he is recovering from an eye infection.

Apart from long-term absentees Tomoki Menda and Yuki Yamanouchi, the White Swans should have plenty of options at their disposal.

KEY BATTLE: Shahril Ishak vs Shuto Inaba

Shahril has been a key figure for Warriors

Shahril Ishak continues to confound his critics, as he struck a hat-trick in the semi-finals to bring his overall tally to four goals in the tournament.

The midfielder is into his 30s but he is not showing signs of slowing down.

Albirex captain Inaba will be the midfield enforcer tasked with shackling him, and having done so during the group stages, the Japanese will be fairly confident he can lock down Shahril again.

THE COACHES

Having been given the head coach role permanently this year, Razif Onn will be delighted he has a chance to vindicate his chairman’s decision by delivering the club’s first-ever League Cup.

Yet Onn will need to tap into all his experience to beat the White Swans. He has failed thus far this season, but can draw confidence from the 2-0 win he masterminded over Albirex last year in the league.

Will Yoshinaga land his first League Cup

After succeeding Naoki Naruo, Kazuaki Yoshinaga had big shoes to fill after the former swept all the trophies last season.

So far, he has lived up to expectations by winning the Charity Shield, while leading the chase for the S.League title.

Last Five Meetings

  • Albirex 2 - 0 Warriors (LeagueCup, Jul ‘17)
  • Albirex 4 - 2 Warriors (S.League, Apr ‘17)
  • Warriors 2 - 0 Albirex (S.League, Sep '16)
  • Albirex 3-2 Warriors (S.League, Jun ’16)
  • Warriors 2-0 Albirex (S.League, Mar '16)
 

If Yoshinaga can inspire his side to a third successive League Cup triumph, not many will be able to argue he has not carried on the good work of his predecessor.

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • A foreign team has made the League Cup final for 10 successive seasons.

  • Warriors have never won the League Cup, although they were edged by Brunei DPMM on penalties in the 2009 final.

  • Albirex have only lost once in the last 13 League Cup game they have played.

  • Albirex have never lost a League Cup final and can be the most successful team in the tournament if they win it for the third year running (four cups in total) .

  • This will be Warriors' first cup final since 2012, when they beat Tampines Rovers 2-1 to clinch the Singapore Cup

FOURFOURTWO PREDICTION

Although both teams come into this game on the back of huge wins, this is a cup final and much is at stake here. The game could possibly be headed for a 1-1 draw, with the White Swans to edge the penalty shootout.

Photos: S.League