Tampines Rovers vs Balestier Khalsa: Stags aim for consolation win

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S.League | Jurong West Stadium| Sat 22 Oct | 7.30pm 

Billed as

A battle between teams that have endured disappointing campaigns.

The lowdown

Tampines Rovers Form

  • Garena Young Lions 1-3 Tampines (S.League)
  • Tampines 0-1 Brunei DPMM (S.League)
  • Tampines 0-0 Bengaluru FC (AFC Cup SF Leg 2)
  • Bengaluru FC 1-0 Tampines (AFC Cup SF Leg 1)
  • Home United 1-0 Tampines (S.League)
 

Balestier Khalsa Form

  • Balestier 0-5 Home United (S.League)
  • Hougang United 1-1 Balestier (S.League)
  • Balestier 1-1 Warriors FC (S.League)
  • Balestier 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S) (SG Cup SF Leg 2)
  • Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Balestier (SG Cup SF Leg 1)
 

It has been a season that promised so much for Tampines, but delivered so little. They have talked up the prospects of winning all four trophies on offer, but are now on the verge of finishing the year without even a piece of silverware.

To compound matters, the players have since been informed that they have to accept drastic pay-cuts if they are to be retained for next season.

With so much negativity and uncertainty surrounding the club in recent weeks, they have to be lauded for putting a professional display in the 3-1 victory over Garena Young Lions last Saturday.

While the Stags have lost any hope of winning the title, that result put them two points ahead of third-placed Brunei DPMM and they now have the chance to seal second spot by winning this upcoming game.

That will ensure that they go into the final league game against Albirex Niigata (S) next Wednesday with an ease of mind and allow them the luxury of fielding a few reserves to keep the squad fresh for the Singapore Cup final against the same opponents three days later.

Meanwhile it is a case of the lesser said, the better for Balestier in 2016. Departure of key players in the off-season hit them real hard and they struggled all year to find any sort of consistency in their performances.

Two gritty come-from-behind draws against Warriors FC and Hougang United showed that they can compete, but their ugly side reared again a week ago as they fell to a heavy 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Home United.

The Tigers are now consigned to finishing in the bottom two, something which has not happened since the 2009 season, and have nothing to play for except for pride.

Team News

Tampines’ players are reportedly in a clean bill of health except for long-term injury victim Fazrul Nawaz while Hafiz Sujad is suspended.

Utility man Irwan Shah has returned from suspension while Shahdan Sulaiman escaped unscathed in his 18-minute cameo against the Young Lions.

It is a similar case for Balestier except for the suspended Zulkiffli Hassim.

The Croatian strike duo of Miroslav Kristic and Niko Tokic missed the Home game through injury, but should have recovered sufficiently to feature in this game.

Key Battle: Jordan Webb vs Fadli Kamis

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Webb has terrorised many defences this season

It has been a pretty good first season at Tampines for Webb, with the silky Canadian winger amassing eight assists and 13 goals in all competitions - including an exquisite chip against Young Lions the last time out.

He will likely come up against Balestier right back Fadli, who has been one of the more consistent performers for the Tigers this season.

This should be a good battle between Webb's trickery and Fadli's industry.

The Coaches

With the Cup final looming, it will be interesting to see if first-year coach Akbar Nawas continues to tinker and find his best lineup for Tampines - as seen in the 3-1 win against Young Lions where he tried two different formations in each half.

Meanwhile opposite counterpart Marko Kraljevic will have to assess whether he should bring Kristic and Tokic back into the starting eleven, or persist with the all-local partnership of Jamil Ali and Syafiq Zainal.

Last Five Meetings

  • Balestier 2-3 Tampines (S.League, Jun '16)
  • Tampines 1-0 Balestier (S.League, Apr ’16)
  • Balestier 4-3 Tampines (S.League, Nov ’15)
  • Tampines 0-0 Balestier (S.League, Aug ’15)
  • Tampines 2-2 Balestier (League Cup, Jun ’15)
 

Facts and Figures

  • Tampines have lost their last two home matches at Jurong West to Hougang and Brunei DPMM, after staying eight games unbeaten at the venue this season.
  • Balestier have not won their last seven matches in all competitions, since a 3-1 win against Young Lions in early August.
  • Balestier have scored 11 second-half goals, the least in the league.
  • Balestier have gone 22 games in all competitions without a clean sheet.

FourFourTwo prediction

Given the gulf in quality, it is hard to see past a Tampines victory. The Stags to prevail 3-0 in their final home match of the season.

Photos: S.League