Match Previews

Warriors FC vs Albirex Niigata (S): Will a goal-galore ensue?

S.League | Jalan Besar Stadium | Fri 18 Mar| 7.45pm  

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The chance for a goal-fest.

The lowdown

Despite overhauling the team, Albirex Niigata (S) are this season’s early frontrunners in the title race and they sit atop the league table with eight points.

Warriors Form

  • Warriors 1-1 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
  • Warriors 2-0 Garena Young Lions (S.League)
  • Brunei DPMM 3-1 Warriors (S.League)
  • Home United 2-2 Warriors FC (S.League)
  • Warriors 6-2 Garena Young Lions (Friendly)

Albirex Niigata (S) form

  • Geylang International 0-0 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)
  • Balestier Khalsa 1-1 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)
  • Garena Young Lions 0-5 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)
  • Albirex Niigata (S) 3-2 Brunei DPMM (S.League)
  • Albirex Niigata (S) 2-0 Hougang United (S.League)

However, after a blistering start to the season where they scored eight goals in the first two games – the White Swans seemed to have lost some momentum.

In fact, against Geylang International in their last game, Albirex’s coach Naoki Naruo admitted his side was second best and that they were lucky to walk away with a 0-0 draw.

But the goals could come again on Friday, when the White Swans take on Warriors FC.

The Warriors are currently languishing in sixth place in the nine-team league and they will need results to come their way soon, if not it will be good bye to their title-winning ambitions.

What will boost Albirex’s confidence though, is the amount of goals Warriors have been conceding.

Apart from the clean sheet they kept against Young Lions, the Warriors have conceded six goals in the three other games they played so far.

Furthermore, against Balestier Khalsa in their last game, the Warriors conceded a last-gasp equaliser to drop two points. This will not be good for their confidence and morale.

With hot-shot Atsushi Kawata turning out for the White Swans, it will be no surprise if the Warriors leak in a few more on Friday.

However, the Warriors too boast of an in-form striker, Jonathan Behe, who has scored in every game he has played in so far.

Team News

Albirex have not reported of any injuries so far, so it means Naoki should have a full squad to pick from.

Warriors on the other hand might still miss Hafiz Nor, as the forward continues his recovery from injury. Shaiful Esah suffered a knock against Balestier in their last game but he should be match-fit to start the game.

Key Battle: Madhu Mohana vs Atsushi Kawata

Madhu Mohana returned to the Warriors’ line-up after serving his two-game suspension and his presence was felt as the Warriors looked rock-solid at the back, until a lapse in concentration saw them drawing 1-1 with Balestier.

Madhu brings stability to a shaky back line.

It will be up to the Singaporean international to keep Kawata quiet in this game but this won’t be an easy task.

Kawata is quick on his feet and possesses a mean shot. He likes to run from deep and this could catch Madhu out, if the defender is not careful.

The Coaches

Past Five meetings

  • Warriors 1-2 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League, Oct '15)
  • Albirex Niigata (S) 0-4 Warriors (S.League, May '15)
  • Warriors 0-6 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League, March '15)
  • Warriors 1-0 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League, Oct '14)
  • Albirex Niigata (S) 0-4 Warriors (S.League, Apr '14)

The two coaches are actually pretty similar in their tactical styles, with both placing an emphasis on retaining possession and attacking football.

But Warriors coach Jorg Steinebrunner is not afraid to tinker with his formation and he might alter the way his side shapes up just to disrupt Naruo’s game plan.

Facts and Figures

  • Albirex are one of only three teams to remain unbeaten in the league so far. The other two are Geylang International and Tampines Rovers.

  • The last time both sides played out a draw was back in 2011, in the Singapore Cup quarter-final. Albirex won 5-4 on penalty shootouts.

FourFourTwo prediction

Warriors 2-2 Albirex Niigata (S). Neither side has been convincing in recent weeks and this game should end in a stalemate.

Photos: S.League