White Swans Eye Perfect Record Against Eagles
Geylang International vs Albirex Niigata (S)
(17 November, Friday, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Although they have wrapped up the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League title, Albirex Niigata (S) head coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga says he will put out his best side when they face Geylang International in a televised game at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night.
After comfortably dispatching nine-time champions Warriors FC 5-1 two weeks ago, the White Swans effectively sealed their second straight S.League crown with a game to spare.
“We will be putting out our best team against Geylang because many supporters would be coming to watch the game, so we cannot let them down,” the 49-year-old asserted.
“My team is quite young; apart from (goalkeeper Yosuke) Nozawa, the average age is under 23. The boys have matured a lot but we have two matches left and I expect them to continue working hard and finish season on a high.”
With 59 points from 23 matches, Albirex are just one point shy of the 60-point target Yoshinaga has set and the former Shimizu S-Pulse coach wants his charges to complete the job.
“We must hit that target, if not will leave sour taste on the title triumph,” said Yoshinaga, who will be missing forward Shoichiro Sakamoto through suspension
“But I also set a target of conceding 14 goals so I was slightly disappointed we conceded against Warriors, which also means we can’t concede anymore against Geylang.”
After netting four times in their win over Warriors, Tsubasa Sano now finds himself two goals behind Home United’s Stipe Plazibat in the goalscoring charts and Yoshinaga has challenged his 23-year-old forward to claim the Golden Boot.
“It’s a good chance for Sano to win the accolade,” added Yoshinaga. “It will be a good experience for him personally, with the pressure which he has to live with.”
But Sano believes this achievement is down to the supply he's received from his teammates on the pitch.
"Yes, I am confident I can still finish as the top scorer," he said.
"It's all because of my teammates, they always support me. We are aiming to get 60 points (in the league so this one will be a big one to achieve our goals this season.:
Geylang will meanwhile be looking to seal fourth place with a point against the newly-minted champions.
As things stand, the Eagles are currently three points clear of Warriors FC but have a superior goal difference as compared to their nearest rivals.
However, their record against the Japanese outfit does not make for pleasant reading with Albirex emerging victorious in their three meetings in all competitions this term.
While he admits it will be an uphill task, Geylang head coach Noor Ali is quietly optimistic of his team’s chances.
“I have not beaten any of the top three sides in the league this season so it’s fine with me if we fight for that fourth spot,” said the ex-international.
“It’s not going to be easy, when Sano going for the top scorer award and scored four (in their last match).
“They have too much quality but I know we can give teams a fight. Let’s just see how things pans out on the last day of the season and I want the boys to go out there and enjoy their football.”
They will however have to do it without skipper Isa Halim and defender Anders Aplin who will both serve a one-match ban after accumulating four yellow cards.
Suspensions: Anders Aplin, Isa Halim (Geylang International); Shoichiro Sakamoto (Albirex Niigata (S))
Geylang International - LLWWL
04/11/17 Home United 2-1 Geylang International
27/10/17 Geylang International 4-1 Brunei DPMM
21/10/17 Garena Young Lions 0-4 Geylang International
15/10/17 Geylang International 2-3 Tampines Rovers
23/09/17 Geylang International 1-3 Home United
Albirex Niigata (S) - WWWWW
03/11/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 5-1 Warriors FC
26/10/17 Balestier Khalsa 0-3 Albirex Niigata (S)
19/10/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Hougang United
30/09/17 Home United 1-2 Albirex Niigata (S) (RHB Singapore Cup)
27/09/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 3-1 Home United (RHB Singapore Cup)
Head to Head (S.League)
05/08/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 5-0 Geylang International
11/05/17 Geylang International 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S)
22/09/16 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Geylang International
20/05/16 Albirex Niigata (S) 2-0 Geylang International
10/03/16 Geylang International 0-0 Albirex Niigata (S)