Singapore Premier League • October 4, 2014
In-Form Tigers Host White Swans
Balestier Khalsa vs Albirex Niigata (S)
(October 6, Monday, 7.30pm, Toa Payoh Stadium)
Written by: Phoon Jia Hui
Balestier Khalsa host Japanese side Albirex Niigata at Toa Payoh Stadium on Monday evening, and an intriguing match should be in store for the spectators.
The Tigers are not involved in the title race, but that does not mean that they do not intend to be party-poopers.
Coach Marko Kraljevic and his charges should be brimming with confidence coming into this one, having defeated Warriors FC 1-0 last Wednesday and will be keen to plot another upset and move up the standings.
Kraljevic had in fact targeted a shot at the title at the start of the season, and even though that looks unlikely, he will want to perform well against the big sides and show what his side was capable of had they had all players available.
The Croatian has already welcomed skipper Paul Cunningham back from a lengthy layoff while Kim Minho is also close to full fitness and could be in line for a start.
Albirex Niigata meanwhile have quietly conducted themselves all season, and are mere points away from overtaking leaders Brunei DPMM. The dark horses have played their cards right as the focus has been off them and allowed them to do their jobs with ease.
As usual, marquee signing Goran Ljubojevic will be a dangerman upfront for Balestier. However, he will not be alone as South Korean duo Park Kang Jin and Kim too are dangerous on their own and their threat should not be ignored.
For Albirex, marksman Kazuki Sakamoto will be looking to score a few goals to help his side collect more points, while trying to ensure he remains in contention for the Golden Boot award.
Balestier though, will have added incentive to put one over their opponents. They are winless in their two encounters against Albirex in the league this year, having been beaten 1-0 in March before they were held to a 1-all draw in June.
Balestier will however have to contend without Ridwan Jamil and utility man Poh Yifeng who both serve suspensions and will sit out this one.
Suspensions: Ridwan Jamil, Poh Yifeng (both Balestier Khalsa)
Key Men To Watch
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam
An ever-present in the Balestier side, Zaiful has been nothing short of impressive between the sticks and is a huge reason why they are doing so well this season despite their injury woes.
Against a Sakamoto-led Albirex who are capable of causing damage from anywhere, the Balestier vice-captain will therefore have to be on his toes throughout to try keep his goal intact.
In their 4-1 win over Hougang United in Week 22, Zaiful had a pretty decent game as he saved 83% of his shots according to InStat and had a 67% passing accuracy which could be another weapon in unlocking the Albirex backline.
Albirex Niigata (S): Norihiro Kawakami
Released by reigning champions Tampines Rovers in mid-season, Kawakami returned to Albirex and he has helped stabilise the defence which had looked shaky at one point of time.
The former skipper of the White Swans not only performs his defensive duties admirably well, but is also a threat at set-pieces with his aerial ability and should be kept an eye on.
Balestier Khalsa – WWWDW
1/10/14 Warriors FC 0-1 Balestier Khalsa
5/9/14 Harimau Muda 1-5 Balestier Khalsa
27/8/14 Balestier Khalsa 4-1 Hougang United
21/8/14 Balestier Khalsa 3-3 Brunei DPMM
31/7/14 Geylang International 1-2 Balestier Khalsa
Albirex Niigata (S) – DWDLW
17/9/14 Tampines Rovers 0-0 Albirex Niigata (S)
28/8/14 Geylang International 3-4 Albirex Niigata (S)
25/8/14 Albirex Niigata (S) 2-2 Tampines Rovers
21/8/14 Home United 4-2 Albirex Niigata (S)
1/8/14 Warriors FC 1-3 Albirex Niigata (S)
Head to Head (S.League)
8/6/14 Balestier Khalsa 1-1 Albirex Niigata (S)
21/3/14 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Balestier Khalsa
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
13/10/11 Balestier Khalsa 1-3 Albirex Niigata (S)
28/6/11 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Balestier Khalsa
6/4/11 Balestier Khalsa 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S)