Singapore Premier League • May 4, 2018

Singapore Premier League Preview: Albirex look for 30th straight home win against Hougang


Albirex Niigata FC (S)’s Taku Morinaga has been likened to superstar Lionel Messi.

SINGAPORE, 3 MAY 2018Fresh from a 3-3 draw with Home United FC in mid-week, Hougang United FC will travel to face Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) leaders Albirex Niigata FC (S) at Jurong East Stadium on Sunday evening, 6 May. Kick-off is at 5.30pm.

BACKGROUND Trailing 3-1 to Home with about 20 minutes left on the clock, Hougang were staring at a third defeat of the season at Hougang Stadium on Wednesday.

However, the Cheetahs salvaged a late point through quickfire goals from Faiz Salleh and Adam Mitter in the space of four minutes. It extended their win-less start to five games as they sit second from bottom, but Hougang can certainly take heart from that display.

Up next for Philippe Aw’s charges is a tough away fixture to reigning champions Albirex, the only team in the SPL with a 100 per cent record so far.

In addition, the White Swans have won their past 29 matches in all competitions at their Jurong East home, with the latest a 5-0 trouncing of Geylang International FC.

Nonetheless, Cheetahs centre-back Illyas Lee remains unfazed and believes they have what it takes to upset the odds.

“It’s going to be tough like any other game for sure… They are a strong team but we fancy our chances too,” said the 22-year-old.

“Anything can happen in football, especially after Wednesday’s draw, which I felt was our best performance so far this season. The team showed character and great fighting spirit to come back against a strong team like Home United but I strongly believe we can do better than that.”

Meanwhile, there seems to be no stopping Kazuaki Yoshinaga’s side.

The likes of central defender Kaishu Yamazaki, Captain Wataru Murofushi and Taku Morinaga have impressed in their debut season, while one also cannot discount the impact made by Adam Swandi – one of two Singaporeans signed by the Japanese outfit for this year.

Coming off the bench against Tampines in their SPL opener, the playmaker went on to start Albirex’s next four matches and already has two goals and three assists to his name.

“I am learning something new everyday and (trying to) improve while at Albirex so I am happy with how things are going for now,” Adam said.

“My team-mates, especially Taku and Wataru, are technically gifted. The former reminds me of (Lionel) Messi with his sublime technique and height, while Wataru is a complete midfielder who does lots of work and as a Liverpool fan, he reminds me of the legendary Stevie G (Steven Gerrard).

“Therefore, it’s easy to play and gel with them on the pitch despite the language barrier and I only see the connection getting better (from here).”

TEAM NEWS Apart from defender Shun Kumagai who remains sidelined with a knee injury, Albirex have a clean bill of health and should name an unchanged starting line-up from their win over Geylang.

Hougang on the other hand, will continue to be without the services of French-Italian forward Antoine Viterale and Jordan Chan through ankle and shoulder injuries respectively.

Warriors: LDLDD

Albirex 1-0 Hougang – Singapore Premier League
Hougang 0-0 Albirex – League Cup
Hougang 2-1 Albirex – Singapore Premier League
Albirex 2-0 Hougang – Singapore Premier League
Albirex 3-0 Hougang – Singapore Premier League

Hiroyoshi Kamata – Albirex
Since joining the White Swans in 2016, Kamata has been a consistent performer, be it in defence or midfield. While not the tallest at 1.65m, he makes up for it by putting his physique to good use. Coupled with his dribbling and speed, it makes the 21-year-old a tricky customer for most opposing players.

Shahfiq Ghani – Hougang
After a slow start to the season, Shahfiq appears to have rediscovered his groove. Although the talented left-footed midfielder has yet to score for the Cheetahs, he had a blinder against Home where he laid on three assists and Hougang will require him to replicate a similar performance if they are to stand a chance.

Albirex midfielder Adam
: “Head Coach Yoshinaga has helped me improve (my game) in many ways, and has been emphasising the need to improve my work rate and to score (more) goals.

“As a footballer, I always tell myself to never be content with whatever I have achieved but to go for more and work harder. At the start of the season, I set myself a target of ten goals but the most important one will be the team’s target of retaining the title.”

Hougang defender Illyas: “The mood in the camp is still very optimistic. We believe that where we are in the table doesn’t reflect our performances. We just need to keep performing and the results will eventually go our way.

“The team has definitely learnt to be more patient because there’s no need to rush things. We just have to play our own game as we have the quality in the team to do so and to take our chances (when it comes). We still have 19 games ahead of us so I’m sure we will climb higher up in the table.”

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