Singapore Premier League • March 20, 2014
Balestier Eyeing the Summit Against Albirex
Albirex Niigata (S) vs Balestier Khalsa
(March 21, Friday, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
Written by: Khalis Rifhan
Two teams in the top half of the table will lock horns at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night as Albirex Niigata (S) take on Balestier Khalsa with both teams successful in clinching at least one win in their first two games.
Albirex had a topsy-turvy start to the season, losing 1-0 to Brunei DPMM at home and although they bounced back with resilience and convincingly brushed aside Harimau Muda 3-0, they went down 3-1 against Hougang United in their next match.
Balestier on the other hand are third in the table at the start of week four, three spots above the White Swans, and have one win and a draw to be proud of.
The Tigers could not have relished a better start to the season after thrashing Courts Young Lions 4-0, but their complacency after that victory might have been the cause of a 1-1 draw against Woodlands Wellington.
With fan favourite Goran Ljubojevic leading the line for Balestier, a stubborn Albirex defence will have to mark the Croatian tightly as he looks to continue his fine scoring form having already scored three goals so far.
For the White Swans, they will rely heavily on Kazuki Sakamoto to lead the lead the attack and will be hoping for the lively Keisuke Ota and Kosuke Matsuda to provide the ammunition from the right flank and central midfield respectively.
Expect a robust encounter between the two sides and a lively battle in midfield between Ota and Balestier’s Park Kang Jin. Park has been a key player in Marko Kraljevic’s set-up, holding the fort well in all their matches so far.
Key Men To Watch
Albirex Niigata (S) : Kazuki Sakamoto
The striker came out as the second best player in InStat Index for Round Two, with a score of 185 which included a 67% shooting accuracy against Harimau Muda
Sakamoto is not only a poacher but also constantly drops back to assist his team in gaining back possession from the opponents. He also loves to play one-touch-football with his midfielders to disorientate their markers in the process.
Although Sakamoto could not prevent his side from crumbling against Hougang a week ago, he managed to get on the scoresheet.
With an eye on goal as well as a tendency to try his luck from distance, expect Sakamoto to cause a few headaches for the Tigers defence.
Balestier Khalsa : Goran Ljubojevic
Having scored in every game so far, Goran Ljubojevic is expected to draw in the crowds with his clinical finishing ability in front of goal.
The 1.90m forward gave centre-backs Walid Lounis and Milos Jevtic a tough time in the draw against Woodlands Wellington as his lofty height has allowed him to win 67% of challenges in the air and follow that up with a brilliant looping goal against Tanjong Pagar last week.
The Croatian will definitely gain an advantage with his height against the Japanese club who tends to struggle against aerial balls.
Albirex Niigata (S) – LWLLW
12/3/14 Hougang United 3-1 Albirex Niigata (S)
27/2/14 Albirex Niigata (S) 3-0 Harimau Muda
22/2/14 Albirex Niigata (S) 0-1 Brunei DPMM
4/11/13 Home United 3-1 Albirex Niigata (S)
1/11/13 Tampines Rovers 1-3 Albirex Niigata (S)
Balestier Khalsa – WDWWW
13/3/14 Balestier Khalsa 1-0 Tanjong Pagar United
28/2/14 Woodlands Wellington 1-1 Balestier Khalsa
23/2/14 Courts Young Lions 0-4 Balestier Khalsa
7/11/13 Balestier Khalsa 1-0 Global FC (RHB Singapore Cup)
4/11/13 Tanjong Pagar United 0-1 Balestier Khalsa
Head to Head (S.League)
20/10/13 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-2 Balestier Khalsa
30/8/13 Albirex Niigata (S) 0-0 Balestier Khalsa
23/4/13 Balestier Khalsa 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S)
16/9/12 Balestier Khalsa 1-0 Albirex Niigata (S)
6/4/12 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-2 Balestier Khalsa
28/6/11 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Balestier Khalsa
6/4/11 Balestier Khalsa 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S)