Match Previews

Tampines Rovers vs Hougang United: Can the Stags hang on to second?

S.League | Our Tampines Hub | Sat Sept 9 | 7.30pm    

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The chance for Tampines to return to winning ways.

TAMPINES RECENT FORM

  • Albirex Niigata (S) 4-0 Tampines Rovers
  • Albirex Niigata (S) 4-0 Tampines Rovers
  • Tampines Rovers 1-5 Albirex Niigata (S)
  • Tampines Rovers 2-0 Brunei DPMM
  • Balestier Khalsa 3-0 Tampines Rovers

THE LOWDOWN:

The last time these two met, Tampines easily dismantled the Cheetahs 3-0 at Hougang Stadium back in May.

They also faced off way back in March, in both club’s second game of the season, when the Stags also prevailed 2-1 at Jalan Besar despite the trio of Madhu Mohana, Ismadi Mukhtar and Yasir Hanapi being unavailable.

Yet Tampines are coming into this game on the back three consecutive defeats to table-toppers Albirex Niigata (S), two in the Singapore Cup and one in the S.League.

The Stags are in second place, 12 points behind Albirex with two games in hand, and must find some form if they are to keep Home United at bay. Tampines have a one-point lead over the Protectors, having played one more game.

HOUGANG RECENT FORM

  • Hougang United 0-1 Geylang International
  • Naga World 0-4 Hougang United
  • Hougang United 4-1 Naga World
  • Hougang United 0-1 Warriors FC
  • Balestier Khalsa 0-0 Hougang United

On the other hand, Hougang have had a somewhat erratic season thus far.

Currently in sixth, the Cheetahs have collected only 20 points out of a maximum 45 in the league, scoring 14 goals and conceding 17 in the process.

In contrast, their form in this year’s Singapore Cup is unmatched, having defeated Philippines’ Ceres Negros 1-0 and Cambodian outfit Naga World 8-1 on aggregate to reach the semi-finals.

The ‘Pride of the North-East’ – as the Hougang Hools, Hougang’s supporters’ club, repeatedly chant – can only hope to replicate their Singapore Cup form for the rest of the season if they want to climb out of the bottom half of the table.

TEAM NEWS:

Both teams are close to full strength, but Tampines will have to do without playmaker Son Yong-Chan, who is suspended. 

Additionally, Khairul Amri remains doubtful for the Stags after limping off in Singapore’s 1-1 draw against Turkmenistan in an Asian Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

KEY BATTLE: Iqbal Hussein vs Mustafic Fahrudin

The 24-year-old Iqbal has yet to start for the Cheetahs, but is always a threat when he comes on and has been in good form of late. The forward loves to run at defenders and manages to twist and turn his way into space to create chances.

His speed and trickery will be a handful for the veteran Mustafic, who is still a part of the national set-up, but has slowed down considerably over the years he has played in Singapore.

THE COACHES: Jurgen Raab vs Philippe Aw

Eight players returning to Tampines after the international break speaks volumes for the quality at coach Jurgen Raab’s disposal and the German will be looking to outsmart tactician Philippe Aw.

But Aw is known to be full of surprises and no doubt he will attempt to spring one on Saturday after two disappointing losses against the Stags this season.

FACTS AND FIGURES:

  • The tie will only be Tampines’ third game at their new home ground. The first was a 2-0 win against Brunei DPMM and the second a humiliating 5-1 defeat at the hands of Albirex Niigata (S).
  • The two teams have played against each other 35 times so far, with Tampines winning 25 of those matches. Hougang have only won 4.
  • It will be a gruelling September for Hougang, who have six matches scheduled this month. They play Garena Young Lions next, followed by consecutive matches against Brunei DPMM. The Cheetahs will end the month with their two-legged Singapore Cup semi-final against Global Cebu, who are currently in third place in the Philippines Football League.

PREDICTION:

Tampines 2-1 Hougang. The Stags will be going for the jugular on Saturday to make it three from three against Hougang this season. 

Photos: FAS