News Singapore Premier League • June 28, 2018

Singapore Premier League Preview: Decimated Balestier promise to bring the fight to Tampines


Hazzuwan Halim has the potential to be a key creator for Balestier Khalsa FC.

SINGAPORE, 28 JUNE 2018Tampines Rovers FC will have the chance to cut the gap at the top of the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League when they visit Balestier Khalsa FC on Saturday, 30 June at Toa Payoh Stadium, at 5.30 pm.

BACKGROUND With Albirex Niigata FC (S) ahead of them by 14 points, albeit having played a game more, second-placed Tampines will relish every chance they get to reduce the difference as they enter the final half of the season.

History does favour the five-time league champions as they have recorded seven straight league wins over Balestier.

Furthermore, Balestier are in a bad state coming into this game, with only one win in their previous five outings. In the last round, they were soundly beaten 3-0 by Warriors FC.

But Marko Kraljevic’s side are renowned for giving more illustrious opponents a good fight and a 3-0 League Cup defeat of Tampines last year is certainly proof of that.

Known for their physical and direct style of play, Balestier should pose a threat to Tampines, who beat Home United FC 1-0 in their last match.

The Stags will have welcomed the result as they returned to winning ways after a surprise 3-2 capitulation to Warriors, but it also initiated a run of games that will see Tampines play four times in the next 11 days.

This match should be a fairly tight affair, with Tampines defender Irfan Najeeb’s header proving the only difference between the two sides when they last met in May.

It is double whammy for Balestier as they lose Fadli Kamis and Huzaifah Aziz due to suspension. Raihan Rahman and Sharin Majid are out for the long term too.

If Shaqi Sulaiman and foreign duo Vedran Mesec and Keegan Linderboom fail to pass their fitness tests, Kraljevic will have to depend on his more inexperienced players.

That said, a Tampines side already robbed of Shannon Stephen and Safirul Sulaiman’s services due to season-ending injuries might shake things up as well in the face of a hectic schedule.

Hafiz Sujad is finally eligible to play once again and could be in the starting line-up after coming off the bench against Home. Irfan was given a run out of 76 minutes after returning from injury but might be benched as a precaution against the robust Tigers.

Balestier: LLWLL
Tampines: WWWLW

02/05/18: Tampines 1-0 Balestier – Singapore Premier League
17/09/17: Balestier 0-1 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
14/07/17: Balestier 3-0 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
17/06/17: Tampines 3-1 Balestier – Singapore Premier League
11/03/17: Balestier 0-1 Tampines – Singapore Premier League

Hazzuwan Halim – Balestier
With only one goal to show for all season, the 2017 Young Player of the Year has fallen short of expectations somewhat. But look beyond the goals and you will find that he is his side’s chief architect, with three assists so far.

Khairul Amri – Tampines
The talismanic striker was left bemused after being denied a legitimate goal against Home and he will be raring to add to his tally of seven goals in ten games. His flair will be key to breaking down a stubborn Balestier side.

Balestier Head Coach Marko Kraljevic:
“A few players injured are a huge loss and it’s really making things hard; (we have) the two suspensions, too. My young players must come up and show why the club signed them. This is a good chance for the young players to show their ability. We are going to give them a good fight though, we are not going to give up. Of course we have something to fight for. Tampines will go all out to beat us, but we can’t give up, even if we have injuries.

“We need to put pressure on them. Tampines have good individual players and they are strong, so we need to stop them. It won’t be easy but we must stay positive. Hazzuwan can get behind their team with his speed. This game, he can do something. He has been missing the final touch but he always have good chancess… I am with him and hopefully he gets lucky on Saturday.”

Tampines goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari: “I wouldn’t think so (that we have an advantage) as they are a very hardworking side and even without their foreigners, they can cause a lot of trouble to any teams in the league. We just have to be cautious and stick to our plan

“It’s fair to say that we are favourites if we look at the standings but then again being favourites itself doesn’t guarantee us the win. We can see in the World Cup, some teams that are favourites are being held to draws or losing so we definitely are not going to take things for granted.

“We have to expect a tough game from Balestier. We know they are a difficult side to beat especially when playing at Toa Payoh. They are defensively a very disciplined side and it will be difficult to break them down so we will have to do all we can to get the three points.”

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