Warriors FC vs Albirex Niigata (S): Can the fallen giants halt the champions-elect?
The all-time record winners vs the soon-to-be first-time champions of the S.League.
Warriors FC Form
- Balestier Khalsa 1-1 Warriors (S.League)
- Warriors 5-2 Garena Young Lions (S.League)
- Brunei DPMM 3-0 Warriors FC (S.League)
- Warriors 2-3 Tampines Rovers (S.League)
- Home United 3-0 Warriors (S.League)
Albirex Niigata (S) Form
- Albirex 1-0 Geylang International (S.League)
- Balestier Khalsa 1-0 Albirex (SG Cup SF Leg 2)
- Albirex 1-0 Balestier Khalsa (SG Cup SF Leg 1)
- Balestier Khalsa 0-1 Albirex (S.League)
- Albirex 4-0 Garena Young Lions (S.League)
Everyone knew that it would be a tough ask for Warriors FC to challenge for the title this season, but not many expected such a listless campaign for the nine-time champions.
A squad with seasoned locals and quality foreign signings in Nikola Rak and Jonathan Behe is expected to challenge for the top four at the very least, but they have found themselves languishing third-from-bottom - six points adrift of sixth-placed Geylang International - with just three games left.
The uniformed outfit can still influence matters in the title race though as they take on runaway leaders Albirex Niigata (S) in this Friday's televised game.
The White Swans have been dominant in all areas of the pitch, scoring the second-most number of goals and conceding the least to open up a seven-point lead at the top of the table, with four games left to play.
Barring a late collapse, they are set to lift their first-ever S.League title. They could even wrap things up this weekend, should they win this game and closest challengers Tampines Rovers fail to pick up points against Brunei DPMM a day later.
Thus the all-Japanese outfit will need no psyching up ahead of this game as they look to cross the finish line.
The Warriors will have to cope without the suspended Syaqir Sulaiman, while Albirex will similarly miss out on the services of Rui Kumada due to suspension.
Apart from that, both sides do not have real injury concerns at the moment.
Key Battle: Kento Fukuda vs Atsushi Kawata
On the White Swans books for one season in 2013, Warriors centre back Fukuda now has the role of stopping his old employers in their tracks.
The 26-year-old will be going up against one of the league's best attackers in the form of Kawata, who has 12 goals in 19 league games.
The latter will be raring to go again after missing last week's narrow 1-0 win against Geylang International and could prove to be a scourge to the leaky Warriors backline.
Warriors' Razif Onn succeeded Jorg Steinebrunner in the hot seat in May, but has failed to inspire the side so far.
In contrast, Naoki Naruo has seemingly done everything right in his second spell in charge of Albirex - putting together a team that is tough to break down and capable of keeping the ball for sustained periods.
Last Five Meetings
- Albirex 3-2 Warriors (S.League, Jun ’16)
- Warriors 2-0 Albirex (S.League, Mar '16)
- Warriors 1-2 Albirex (S.League, Oct '15)
- Albirex 0-4 Warriors (S.League, May '15)
- Warriors 0-6 Albirex (S.League, Mar '15)
Facts and Figures
- Albirex are now on a streak of five straight wins in all competitions, including four 1-0 wins on the trot.
- Albirex have yet to concede in their last 450 minutes of football, with the last one coming in the 2-1 away defeat to DPMM in early August.
- Warriors are one of the only three teams (alongside Tampines and DPMM) to have beaten Albirex this season.
- Along with Hougang, Albirex have scored the joint-most number of late goals (from 81' to 90' including injury time) - 12.
- Along with Garena Young Lions, Warriors have conceded the joint-most number of late goals - 12.
A tight affair expected, but Albire, as usual, should prevail by the odd goal again. A 1-0 win for the White Swans, again.