News Singapore Cup • August 28, 2018

Singapore Cup Preview: ‘Fresh’ challenge for Geylang as Balestier come calling


Azhar Sairudin will be key for a Geylang team missing playmaker Fumiya Kogure.

SINGAPORE, 27 AUG 2018A Geylang International FC side that haven’t had the best of luck in the past few weeks are looking for a reprieve when they take on Balestier Khalsa FC in the first leg of the RHB Singapore Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday, 29 August. Kick-off is at 7.45pm at the Bedok Stadium.

BACKGROUND It’s been an unfortunate season for Geylang, who have had to contend with injuries to key players. They did not have the full complement of seven substitutes for their last three games, being able to only name four in two of those and five in the other.

With Azhar Sairudin and Fuad Ramli receiving their marching orders in their last game against Albirex Niigata FC (S), they could have up to nine players missing in their next Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) match on 22 September.

Thankfully, the suspensions do not carry over to the Singapore Cup and the Eagles are planning to go all out as they try to put their league woes behind them, according to Eagles defender Jufri Taha.

“The next league game is not our priority right now; this cup competition is the next step for us to get on with,” he said.

“It has been a tough season. In fact, we don’t see the Singapore Cup as a break (from our issues in the league), but rather another opportunity and challenge.

“We will surely give our best.”

The Eagles can also take heart that they have defeated Balestier twice this season and while the Tigers have lost just four times in their last ten matches, they have conceded first a whopping eight times in the same period.

That is something that has Balestier centre-back Sheikh Abdul Hadi is worried about.

“We can’t win games if we keep conceding goals and always have to come from behind,” he said. “We always have to keep our mind focussed throughout the games.”

Hadi also called for his side to learn from their past mistakes against Geylang.

“Every game is a new game, but we will always study and learn the opponents,” he said. “We will try to learn… and exploit them through our strengths. Most importantly, we have to play to our strengths and stick to the game-plan that Coach Marko (Kraljevic) has.”

The Eagles will welcome back Zufadli Zainal. Goalkeeper Zainol Gulam remains a doubt, while Umar Akhbar, Fumiya Kogure, Ryson Yap, Shawal Anuar remain sidelined.

Balestier are not without their injury problems too. Raihan Rahman and Sharin Majid are definitely out, while a return for Vedran Mesec is unlikely too.

Geylang: LLDLW
Balestier: DWWLD

01/08/18: Geylang 1-0 Balestier – Singapore Premier League
02/06/18: Balestier 1-2 Geylang – Singapore Premier League
14/04/18: Geylang 0-1 Balestier – Singapore Premier League
09/09/17: Geylang 2-0 Balestier – Singapore Premier League
08/07/17: Balestier 0-2 Geylang – League Cup

Azhar Sairudin – Geylang
The midfielder hasn’t had the best of seasons but in his last match against Albirex, he was the brightest spark for his team until his sending off. With Kogure out, Azhar is the only player in the Eagles squad with the ability to pull the strings in midfield. Whether or not Geylang can get something out from the first leg of this tie will depend on the one-time Singapore international.

Hazzuwan Halim – Balestier
The winger has been directly involved in 10 goals this season – the most of any Balestier player this season. Continuing his growth under Kraljevic, Hazzuwan has slowly developed into a player capable of unlocking defences or even leading the attack when needed. He has also shown his knack for producing the goods when his team needs it the most.

Against a Geylang defence that has leaked the most goals in the league with 54, Hazzuwan will fancy his chances.

Geylang defender Jufri:
“Frankly, after the game against Albirex… the players moved on. We have worked hard in training to brush up on our strengths.

“Not having players selected (for The Sultan of Selangor’s Cup) doesn’t mean we don’t have the players that’s capable… I won’t say whether the extra time (we had together over the weekend) helped or not but as a team, we have always stuck together in preparation.”

Balestier defender Hadi: “(Having players and coaches away) has somehow affected us, but the players who stayed in Singapore continued with training. I’m sure those who played in the SOS Cup will bring back the experience and things they’ve picked up when playing, and help us in a way or two for the upcoming matches.”

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