Stags Keen To Pile Pressure On Table Toppers
Balestier Khalsa vs Tampines Rovers
(17 September, Sunday, 7.30pm, Toa Payoh Stadium)
Written by: Rashid Sulaiman
Title aspirants Tampines Rovers are hoping to continue their winning run when they face Balestier Khalsa in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League at the Toa Payoh Stadium on Sunday night.
Tampines have won their last two matches against Hougang United (4-1) and Garena Young Lions (5-1) and are currently second in the league on 37 points, nine points behind leaders Albirex Niigata (S).
Coming close behind them are Home United in third place on 33 points but with two games in hand.
While the Stags are mathematically still in contention for the title, head coach Jurgen Raab admits it is going to be tough and is focused on denying Home the chance to overtake them in second position instead.
“Our target is to fight for second spot. We have won two matches and we are eight points clear off Warriors FC and 10 points clear from Geylang International,” said Raab.
“We need to bring pressure to Home who have to win their matches. We will do our job and try to win on Sunday against Balestier and then against Warriors on Wednesday. Then we will see what is the outcome of those matches,” added the German.
With nine goals scored in their previous two matches, confidence is high in the Tampines’ camp and Raab was especially pleased with two of his players, Shannon Stephen and Ivan Dzoni, for their showing against Young Lions.
“The performance today was pleasing and it wasn’t easy but what they shown today was good,” explained Raab after their match against Vincent Subramaniam’s charges.
“To be able to name Shannon in the starting lineup was good. For Dzoni, I think he has understood what is necessary and he has the ability to become a good player in time to come. If he keep it up, he will be an important player for the team, same goes to Shannon.”
But despite scoring two goals, Shannon is likely to start from the bench for their match against the Tigers as Raab has expressed his intention of rotating his players in the closing stages of the campaign.
“We have four matches that are very close to one another. Ismadi (Mukhtar) is a player that can play one match well but if he do not have enough recovery time, there is a danger of getting a hamstring,” Raab explained.
“That is why I gave Shannon the chance against Young Lions. But we will start with Ismadi on Sunday (vs Balestier) and the next match we will go with Shannon.”
While Raab can afford to rotate his players to ensure fresh legs on the field, it is not the case with their opponents who currently sit in seventth spot in the league with only two wins and four draws this season.
“I thought we did relatively well today but they (Geylang) had the players to finish off the chances and we didn’t - that was the difference today,” said Balestier head coach Marko Kraljevic after their 2-0 loss to Geylang International.
“We are missing the players who can put the ball in the net and provide the key passes to the attacking players.
“It’s tough to catch up with (sixth-placed) Hougang in the table after today’s loss but if we can finish above Brunei DPMM and Young Lions it will be good. There’s still six games to go and you never know what will happen but we shall see,” added the former Balestier and Tampines player.
Kraljevic will be forced to tinker with his starting lineup against the Stags as they will be without the services of Huzaifah Aziz and Ahmad Syahir who are suspended for this match.
Suspensions: Huzaifah Aziz, Ahmad Syahir (Balestier Khalsa)
Balestier Khalsa - LDDDL
09/09/17 Geylang International 2-0 Balestier Khalsa
21/08/17 Balestier Khalsa 2-2 Brunei DPMM
17/08/17 Balestier Khalsa 2-2 Warriors FC
29/07/17 Balestier Khalsa 0-0 Hougang United
26/07/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 2-1 Balestier Khalsa
Tampines Rovers - LLLWW
12/09/17 Garena Young Lions 0-4 Tampines Rovers
09/09/17 Tampines Rovers 5-1 Hougang United
19/08/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 4-0 Tampines Rovers
13/08/17 Albirex Niigata (S) 2-0 Tampines Rovers (RHB Singapore Cup)
10/08/17 Tampines Rovers 1-5 Albirex Niigata (S) (RHB Singapore Cup)
Head to Head (S.League)
17/06/17 Tampines Rovers 3-1 Balestier Khalsa
11/03/17 Balestier Khalsa 0-1 Tampines Rovers
22/10/16 Tampines Rovers 2-0 Balestier Khalsa
17/06/16 Balestier Khalsa 2-3 Tampines Rovers
07/04/16 Tampines Rovers 1-0 Balestier Khalsa