Singapore Premier League • February 27, 2014

Clash of Disciplined White Swans and Dynamic Young Tigers


Albirex Niigata (S) vs Harimau Muda

(February 27, Thursday, 7.30pm, Jurong East Stadium)

Written by: Kenneth Ho

Albirex Niigata (Singapore) host Harimau Muda at the Jurong East Stadium in a game which will see a tactically disciplined side take on the youthful and energetic Malaysian outfit.

It will be a contest between two relatively inexperienced sides, with both teams releasing the bulk of their squads from last season and recruiting new signings this season.

Razip has recruited a number of new players, including Harimau Muda ‘C’ trio, Faris Shah Rosli, Irfan Zakaria and Syazwan Zaipol Bahari while Ridzuan Abdunloh and Wan Ahmad Amir have been promoted to the U23 side.

Both teams have endured losing starts to the season. Albirex  Niigata crashed to a Rodrigo Tosi penalty in their 1-0 defeat by DPMM, while Harimau Muda were unable to overcome nine-men Tanjong Pagar United in a 2-1 loss.

That said, Albirex should be the favourites for this match. The White Swans threatened against DPMM and were only thwarted by by goalkeeper Azman Ilham who kept out everything the White Swans threw at him.

Even though Albirex has revamped its squad, the club can still count on its old guards to ensure they get a result. Kento Nagasaki can provide the creative spark to unlock defences in difficult games, they will also look to Kazuki Sakamoto to get off the mark and deliver the goods.

Harimau coach Razip has revealed that his squad will be missing several players through injury, but insisted his boys would have to do better in their next match against Albirex.

“It is a very short period of time between this two games and I am also short of players because some of the players are injured and I left them in Kuala Lumpur,” Razip said.

“I want to put my best players every game we play, but when you play against a good team we have to put more efforts into the game, whoever is playing.”

Key Man to Watch

Albirex: Niigata (S): Itsuki Yamada

InStats indicated that the Japanese side had 58% of ball possession in their previous match against DPMM, and that only 16 of 103 attacks were made on the counter against DPMM.

This could be interpreted that Albirex preferred to hold onto the ball and build up attacks. With that, Yamada’s passing (completed 81% of passes,100% of key passes in previous game) will be important if Albirex intend to adopt the same approach against Harimau.

Harimau Muda: Irfan Zakaria

The defensive midfielder role is often understated as all the attention goes to the goal creators and scorers, but Irfan will be needed to break up plays, especially with Albirex keen to play a slow-passing game.

Irfan has a decent rate of challenges won (21 out 31, 68%), and his ability to distribute the ball away calmly (89% completed passes) will be handy in aiding Harimau to keep the ball away from Albirex.

Albirex Niigata (S) – LLWWL

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)

23/10/13    Albirex Niigata (S) 3-1 Woodlands Wellington

20/10/13    Albirex Niigata (S) 1-2 Balestier Khalsa

Harimau Muda – LDDLL

24/2/14    Harimau Muda 1-2 Tanjong Pagar

5/11/13     Warriors 1-1 Harimau Muda B

31/10/13     Harimau Muda B 2-2 Brunei DPMM

27/10/13     Harimau Muda B 0-3 Courts Young Lions

24/10/13     Hougang United 4-1 Harimau Muda B

26/9/13     Harimau Muda B 2-2 Geylang International

Head to Head (S.League)

7/5/2013    Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Harimau Muda

22/2/2013    Harimau Muda 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S)

22/7/2012    Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Harimau Muda

18/3/2012    Harimau Muda 0-0 Albirex Niigata (S)