Tampines Rovers vs Geylang International: Stags out to close gap on Albirex
The not-so-Eastern derby (with Tampines now based in the west).
TAMPINES ROVERS FORM
Albirex Niigata (S) 4-0 Tampines (League Cup SF)
Brunei DPMM 2-1 Tampines (League Cup)
Warriors FC 0-3 Tampines (League Cup)
Tampines 6-4 Hougang United (League Cup)
Global FC 1-2 Tampines (SG Cup)
They may have lost the chance to achieve a unique quadruple, but a treble is still possible for Tampines Rovers this season.
They face four crucial league fixtures in the month of August and just one-third of the season remains.
Before the league got disrupted by the Singapore Cup quarter-finals and the League Cup, Akbar Nawas’ side had notched four straight wins, including a 1-0 victory over leaders Albirex Niigata that closed the gap between the two teams to just four points.
With the return of several key players who were away on international duty with Singapore, Tampines should be raring to go for this fixture which has been traditionally coined as the ‘Eastern Derby’.
GEYLANG INTERNATIONAL FORM
Hougang United 1-2 Geylang (League Cup Plate Final)
Geylang 1-0 Warriors FC (League Cup Plate SF)
Geylang 1-0 Albirex Niigata (S) (League Cup)
Geylang 0-5 Home United (League Cup)
Balestier Khalsa 2-2 Geylang (League Cup)
A victory will put them within reach of Albirex and put the pressure on the White Swans, who face a tricky away clash against defending champions Brunei DPMM 24 hours later.
Just like Tampines, Geylang had seven national team players absent for the tournament, but still performed well.
Inspired by the efforts of Mark Hartmann and Shawal Anuar, the Eagles put together three straight wins and upset Hougang United 2-1 in the Plate final to win their first piece of silverware since the 2009 Singapore Cup.
With a more complete squad at his disposal now, coach Hasrin Jailani should be gunning for a top-three finish. Geylang are now placed sixth with 21 points from 16 matches, one point behind the trio of DPMM, Home United and Hougang.
The neutrals will be hoping for a repeat of that six-goal thriller when these sides met in the opening week of the season.
On that day Geylang came from two goals down to lead 3-2, only to be denied all three points by a late Yasir Hanapi stunner.
Apart from welcoming back the seven national team players – Izwan Mahbud, Afiq Yunos, Shakir Hamzah, Hafiz Sujad, Izzdin Shafiq, Yasir Hanapi and Fazrul Nawaz – Tampines are likely to have key man Jermaine Pennant available.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
Geylang 0-1 Tampines (S.League, Apr '16)
Tampines 3-3 Geylang (S.League, Feb '16)
Geylang 1-4 Tampines (S.League, Oct '15)
Tampines 2-0 Geylang (S.League, Jul '15)
Geylang 3-2 Tampines (S.League, Apr '15)
The former English Premier League star was wrapped in cotton wool for the League Cup campaign due to an Achilles problem, but should be fit to tackle the challenges ahead.
Shahdan Sulaiman, however, remains on the long-term treatment table due to a recurrence of the hairline fracture in his right leg.
Geylang similarly have a mostly clean bill of health, with internationals Syazwan Buhari, Faritz Hameed, Daniel Bennett, Safirul Sulaiman, Gabriel Quak and Sahil Suhaimi returning to the squad.
Former Singapore under-23 forward Shahfiq Ghani is also available for selection, having made his first appearance of the season as a 90th-minute substitute for Stanely Ng against Hougang.
They will miss the services of Amy Recha, though, with the 24-year-old away on reservist duties for three weeks.
Key Battle: Mustafic Fahrudin vs Mark Hartmann
It is no secret that Tampines’ hopes of winning this match will largely depend on whether they manage to shut out Hartmann.
The 24-year-old Philippines international has been a revelation since joining Geylang in the mid-season transfer window, plundering five goals in seven matches so far.
He will come up against one of the toughest defenders in the S.League this time in Mustafic. The 35-year-old has been rolling back the years in 2016 with a series of fine performances.
It will be an interesting contrast of behavioural traits between the two tacticians.
Tampines’ Akbar Nawas is usually a calm and collected figure on the bench, while Geylang’s Hasrin Jailani can be a bit animated and at times rather vocal on the sidelines.
They do have similar coaching philosophies, however, with both loving to set out their teams to attack.
Facts and Figures
- Tampines are one of the two remaining teams, alongside Albirex, who have yet to lose at home this season (not counting a 2-1 loss to Home United away from their usual fortress, when they were the designated home team at Jalan Besar Stadium).
- Tampines have hit the woodwork nine times – joint-second highest in the league behind Albirex (15).
- Tampines haven’t lost when leading at half-time this season – winning nine and drawing two.
- Geylang, meanwhile, have lost just once when leading at half-time – winning five and drawing one in the other matches.
- Geylang's Carlo Delgado has hit the woodwork three times this season, level with DPMM's Paulo Sergio, Albirex's Atsushi Kawata and Kento Nagasaki, Balestier's Fadhil Noh and Warriors' Nikola Rak. Only Albirex's Tatsuro Inui has hit the woodwork more (4)
This should be a closely-fought battle between two rivals. We’re tipping Tampines to just nick it 3-2.