News Singapore Premier League • August 16, 2018

Singapore Premier League Preview: Albirex eye return to winning ways against depleted Geylang


Jufri Taha (left) has played every minute in the league this season.

SINGAPORE, 16 AUG 2018Geylang International FC will face a second tough fixture in just four days as they travel to the Jurong East Stadium to take on Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) champions Albirex Niigata FC (S) this Saturday, 18 August. Kick off is at 5.30pm

BACKGROUND There will be no respite for Geylang, who come into the game against Albirex following a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Home United FC on Wednesday.

The Eagles, with a depleted side, were unable to match Home at all and only Darren Teh’s free-kick near the end of othe match took some gloss of what was a near-perfect performance from Home.

Albirex have proved to be unbeatable, even on days when they do not perform up to their usual standards. Last Sunday, they were outplayed by Home, but still found an late equaliser to maintain their unbeaten record, which now stands at 41 consecutive matches in all competitions.

Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga made no attempt to hide his displeasure with his players after that game, even hinting that his side have got complacent since sealing the title.

With the Singapore Cup still up for grabs, captain Wataru Murofushi urged the Japanese side to use that poor performance as a wake up call.

“We have to improve”, the 22-year-old said. “I’ve told them to keep their focus before the match… We all know what we have to do before each match.

“We will do our best and put on a good performance for our home fans (on Saturday). However, we expect that Geylang will play a defensive game.”

As for Geylang, stand-in captain Jufri Taha called for his teammates to move on from the Home defeat.

“We have to forget about the game and try to prepare the best we can for the next game,” he said. “They are just another opponent to me, but it’s up to the guys to see how much they have left to end the season with. Hopefully, we can give them a good fight.”

That might be a mountain to climb though, seeing as how the Eagles have let in three goals or more in the last five matches against the White Swans. Already, they have conceded a whopping eight times in two meetings against the champions.

Furthermore, they will have to face Albirex with a number of key players missing.

“It won’t be right if I say it doesn’t affect us. It does affect, but we still have (other) players,” Jufri explained. “It’s up to the players to see how much they want to push (on Saturday).”

The Eagles will welcome back goalkeeper Basil Chan from suspension. Zainol Gulam made the bench against Home, but is unlikely to start the game against Albirex as he continues to recover from his injury.

Zulfadli Zainal is out for two weeks as well, joining long term absentee Shawal Anuar on the sidelines. Fumiya Kogure, who has missed the last two games, will also be unavailable for the clash against his former club. Umar Akhbar and Ryson Yap are likely to be out too.

Albirex should have an almost full squad for selection, with Kaishu Yamazaki the only one unavailable.

Albirex: DWDWW
Geylang: LDLWL

24/06/18: Geylang 0-3 Albirex – Singapore Premier League
28/04/18: Albirex 5-0 Geylang – Singapore Premier League
17/11/17: Geylang 2-7 Albirex – Singapore Premier League
05/08/17: Albirex 5-0 Geylang – Singapore Premier League
18/07/17: Albirex 4-0 Geylang – Singapore Premier League

Shuhei Hoshino – Albirex
The Albirex striker failed to add to his tally against Home and was shackled throughout the match. Against a depleted Eagles side, Hoshino should fancy the opportunities that will come his way, especially given that the Eagles have the worst defensive record in the league.

Afiq Yunos – Geylang
The centre-back will most likely be one of the busiest players on the pitch and if Geylang are upset the dominant Albirex at the Jurong East Stadium, then Afiq will need to reproduce the form that saw him became a national team regular once upon a time.

Albirex midfielder Murofushi:
“At the moment, we just have to take each game as it comes and do our best (instead of thinking about records). But of course, we will all be happy if we stay unbeaten.”

Geylang defender Jufri: “We have a young squad, it’s not that we are not good, we have a team full of capabilities. It’s just that they are young and every game is a learning curve.”

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