Singapore Premier League • August 24, 2014
Stags Seeking For Redemption Against Albirex
Albirex Niigata (S) vs Tampines Rovers
(August 25, Monday, 7.30pm, Jurong East Stadium)
Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Tampines Rovers will be looking to return to winning ways when they take on Albirex Niigata (S) at Jurong East Stadium on Monday evening, having lost 1-0 to Tanjong Pagar United the last time out.
Had they not been defeated, the Stags would have overtaken leaders Brunei DPMM at the top of the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League standings.
With that result, Tampines now find themselves two points behind the Wasps and as such, will be eager to bounce back with a victory here and are well aware that they can ill-afford to slip up at such a crucial stage.
Head coach Rafi Ali opted to rest a number of his big guns against Tanjong Pagar – for example Aleksandar Duric and Noh Alam Shah – and they looked toothless in attack as a result.
However, they can take heart from the performance of midfielder Jacob Butler who looked steady and was one of the better players throughout the game for the league’s defending champions.
The former Waitakere United skipper will be tasked to halt Albirex from advancing from midfield and cut off the supply given the quality Albirex have upfront.
The likes of Kazuya Okazaki and Kazuki Sakamoto have the ability to wreak havoc on their day, and Tampines will have to keep an eye on the latter who is the league’s second joint top-scorer with 17 goals so far.
However the White Swans too, come into this on the back of a 4-2 defeat by Home United despite scoring first in that match.
It remains to be seen which Albirex side would turn up though. They have been rather inconsistent season-long and have just won two out of their last five matches, which does not bode well at all.
This will also be a must-win game for Tatsuyuki Okuyama’s side, as they trail DPMM by four points and therefore anything less than three points could hurt their title chances.
That said, this will be expected to be thrilling but a tight match at the same time with both teams gunning for all three points to keep their title hopes alive.
There will be no suspension woes for both sides and hence, both should have a relatively full squad to choose from.
It ended 1-all in the reverse fixture at Clementi Stadium in May as former Tampines midfielder Luis Closa cancelled out Shuhei Hotta’s opener as the spoils were shared.
Key Men To Watch
Albirex Niigata (S): Kazuya Okazaki
While Sakamoto has been grabbing the headlines for his goalscoring exploits upfront, another man is behind that and he is none other than Kazuya Okazaki.
Blessed with a cultured left foot, the 23-year-old has played a key role for the White Swans this season, contributing to the team with his assists. He has proven that he can score too, having netted four times this season.
Against Warriors FC in Week 19, Okazaki had a good game as he created two goals out of the three Albirex scored and had a decent passing accuracy (68%) with four out of his seven key passes finding its intended target.
Tampines Rovers: Jacob Butler
Signed to replace the outgoing Luis Closa, Butler has proven to be a decent acquisition by the Stags.
The New Zealander midfielder has put in efficient displays in the engine room, going about his task of screening the backline with little fuss.
He was one of the best performers for Tampines against Woodlands in Week 19, winning 70% of challenges he executed in that game and was also good in the air as he won all three aerial challenges.
Albirex Niigata (S) – LWLWL
21/8/14 Home United 4-2 Albirex Niigata (S)
1/8/14 Warriors FC 1-3 Albirex Niigata (S)
18/7/14 Geylang International 3-1 Albirex Niigata (S) (StarHub League Cup QF)
10/7/14 Albirex Niigata (S) 13-0 Police SA (StarHub League Cup Group A)
7/7/14 Tanjong Pagar United 4-0 Albirex Niigata (S) (StarHub League Cup Group A)
Tampines Rovers – LWWWL
22/8/14 Tampines Rovers 0-1 Tanjong Pagar United
31/7/14 Woodlands Wellington 0-2 Tampines Rovers
24/7/14 Tampines Rovers 3-0 Balestier Khalsa (StarHub League Cup Plate Final)
19/7/14 Tampines Rovers 9-0 Police SA (StarHub League Cup Plate SF)
12/7/14 Tampines Rovers 2-3 Warriors FC (StarHub League Cup Group B)
Head to Head (S.League)
1/5/14 Tampines Rovers 1-1 Albirex Niigata (S)
1/11/13 Tampines Rovers 1-3 Albirex Niigata (S)
21/8/13 Tampines Rovers 3-3 Albirex Niigata (S)
19/4/13 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-2 Tampines Rovers
26/9/12 Tampines Rovers 3-4 Albirex Niigata (S)
19/4/12 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Tampines Rovers
29/10/11 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-3 Tampines Rovers
15/5/11 Tampines Rovers 3-1 Albirex Niigata (S)
6/3/11 Albirex Niigata (S) 0-2 Tampines Rovers