Tigers Look To Overcome The Odds
Albirex Niigata (S) vs Balestier Khalsa
(26 July, Wednesday, 7.30pm, Jurong East Stadium)
Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Balestier Khalsa will return to Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League action as they make the trip to Jurong East Stadium to face newly-minted The New Paper League Cup champions Albirex Niigata (S) on Wednesday night.
The Tigers last saw competitive action nearly two weeks ago in a League Cup Group B match where they ran out comfortable 3-0 winners over Tampines Rovers to snap a eleven-match winless run in all competitions.
While Balestier head coach Marko Kraljevic insists that they have put their League Cup disappointment behind them, he is aware of the task at hand.
“We have moved on from the League Cup and will now focus on the S.League, but it will be tough with some problems like injuries and suspensions,” said the German-Croat, who will be without the services of suspended duo of Hanafi Salleh and Kyaw Zayar Win.
“Shah (Hirul) is also out with a groin injury and I will have a this squad for the coming two games as a result.
“Hanafi Akbar too, cannot play as he is away with the Singapore Under-23s who are preparing for the upcoming SEA Games.
“He’s a gifted player who can make something out of nothing and we are going to miss him. I can’t do much but it’s good for him because it might in turn benefit us when he returns to the team”
Despite putting three past the Stags, Kraljevic admits he is still concerned with his team’s failure to find the back of the net on a consistent basis.
“We finally scored the goals in our last game against Tampines, but we are still struggling upfront even when chances are created,” he bemoaned.
“It's not easy to defend 90 mins against any team and it's even tougher if you concede and not score. For me, this is the biggest issue for the team; hopefully we can carry on from where we left off but the most important thing is to keep a clean sheet.”
Up against the high-flying White Swans, Kraljevic acknowledges that it will be tough but says with a bit of luck, anything is possible.
“We need to close them down as quickly as possible and not give them space on the ball. We have to be really aggressive and it will be tough if we allow Albirex to control the game,” he noted.
“They have Kento Nagasaki in midfield, Tsubasa Sano upfront and even left-back Naofumi Tanaka who can deliver quality crosses into the box. We have to do our best, and hope things somehow go your way but we need to work hard at the same time.”
Albirex are on the other hand buoyed by their extra-time 1-0 win over Warriors FC in the League Cup final, courtesy of Tsubasa Sano’s strike in the 111th minute.
The result saw them lift their third League Cup in a row, as they also became the most successful club in the history of the competition with a total of four wins.
Head coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga will have to however contend with the absence of defender Yasutaka Yanagi who serves the second of his two-match suspension.
Suspensions: Yasutaka Yanagi (Albirex Niigata (S)); Hanafi Salleh, Kyaw Zayar Win (both Balestier Khalsa)
Albirex Niigata (S) - DWWWW
21/07/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Warriors FC (The New Paper League Cup)
18/07/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 4-0 Geylang International (The New Paper League Cup)
13/07/17 Home United 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S) (The New Paper League Cup)
10/07/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 2-0 Warriors FC (The New Paper League Cup)
07/07/17 Hougang United 0-0 Albirex Niigata (S) (The New Paper League Cup)
Balestier Khalsa - DLLLW
14/07/17 Balestier Khalsa 3-0 Tampines Rovers (The New Paper League Cup)
11/07/17 Brunei DPMM 3-0 Balestier Khalsa (The New Paper League Cup)
08/07/17 Balestier Khalsa 0-2 Geylang International (The New Paper League Cup)
03/07/17 Balestier Khalsa 1-2 Home United
22/06/17 Garena Young Lions 0-0 Balestier Khalsa
Head to Head (S.League)
21/04/17 Balestier Khalsa 0-3 Albirex Niigata (S)
19/08/16 Balestier Khalsa 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S)
06/05/16 Albirex Niigata (S) 6-0 Balestier Khalsa
27/02/16 Balestier Khalsa 1-1 Albirex Niigata (S)
16/10/15 Balestier Khalsa 1-0 Albirex Niigata (S)