News • February 27, 2016

Kraljevic Chooses To Remain Positive In Face Of Key Injuries


Balestier Khalsa v Albirex Niigata (S)
(Saturday, 27 February, 7.30pm, Toa Payoh Stadium)

Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic will not be letting two key injuries affect him ahead of his side’s Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League clash against the outstanding Albirex Niigata (S) on Saturday evening, as he chooses to remain positive instead.

Croatian Robert Pericic, one part of the deadly strike duo with fellow countryman Miroslav Kristic, is likely to be out of action for two months with a knee injury, while defensive midfielder Emir Lotinac will be missing for up to two weeks.

“It’s a big blow for us (losing Pericic and Lotinac), but we will work hard against Albirex,” Kraljevic said.

“They (Albirex) have done well so far. They keep possession and they are playing good, but we must challenge them and work hard to achieve something.”

While admitting that the absence of Pericic and Lotinac are a big loss, he is adamant his side can still cause some problems for the Japanese side.

“They have done well at Jalan Besar, but maybe at Toa Payoh we will have a slight advantage,” he added.

Having arrived back in Singapore from an arduous journey to the Maldives in the week with a point from their opening AFC Cup Group match, who would argue with a coach renowned for upsetting the odds against the top teams in this league?

Due to their opponent’s AFC Cup exploits, Albirex will arguably be the best prepared of the two sides going into the encounter having had a full week to recover and train following their 5-0 win against Garena Young Lions last Saturday.

After beginning their 2016 Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League campaign with two successive comprehensive victories, the White Swans will no doubt be full of confidence when they line up against the Tigers.

With Mikiya Yamada and Kento Fujihara possibly returning to fitness after they missed the Young Lions match with hamstring injuries, coach Naoki Naruo could have a selection dilemma.

Both stand-in centre-back Kazuki Mine and wing-back Tadaaki Yazawa will certainly feel they deserve to be retained in a lineup that were often a class above their younger Singaporean opponents last week.

Four-goal hero Atsushi Kawata will be looking to add to his tally so far as he will line up alongside the impressive young forward pairing of Daichi Ishiyama (20-years-old) and Hiroyoshi Kamata (19-years-old).

The two youngsters have excellent game insight and as a result, their movement and creative play in possession will certainly be something for Balestier to be wary of.

Key Men To Watch

Balestier Khalsa: Miroslav Kristic

The Croatian will have his work cut out against the White Swans as he will be relied upon to retain the little amount of possession that Balestier is expected to have on Saturday evening.

If the Tigers can defend well on the night and frustrate Albirex for as long as possible, Kristic is just the man for a possible counter-attack goal or a set play special.

Albirex Niigata (S): Masaya Jitozono

The left-footed 27-year-old was outstanding against Young Lions last week, but he will most likely have to operate in smaller spaces on Saturday as Balestier are set to defend deep in their own half.

His link up play with midfield partner Kento Nagasaki is key to breaking the Tigers resilience on the night as their supply will be critical for the front three of Kawata, Ishiyama and Kamata.

Balestier Khalsa – DWLLD

23/02/16  New Radiant 2-2 Balestier Khalsa (AFC Cup)
14/02/16  Garena Young Lions 1-0 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
21/11/15  Brunei DPMM 4-0 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
05/11/15  Balestier Khalsa 4-3 Tampines Rovers (S.League)
01/11/15  Hougang United 1-1 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)

Albirex Niigata (S) – LWWWW

20/02/16  Garena Young Lions 0-5 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)
13/02/16  Albirex Niigata (S) 3-2 Brunei DPMM (S.League)
27/11/15  Albirex Niigata (S) 2-1 Home United (Singapore Cup)
20/11/15  Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Hougang United (S.League)
13/11/15  Albirex Niigata (S) 0-1 Tampines Rovers (S.League)

Head to Head (S.League)

16/10/15  Balestier Khalsa 1-0 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)
23/07/15  Albirex Niigata (S) 0-1 Balestier Khalsa
20/03/15  Balestier Khalsa 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S)
06/10/14  Balestier Khalsa 2-0 Albirex Niigata (S)
08/06/14  Balestier Khalsa 1-1 Albirex Niigata (S)