Singapore Premier League • April 12, 2018

Singapore Premier League Preview: Geylang International FC vs Balestier Khalsa FC


Azhar Sairudin (right) is a key cog in the Geylang International FC midfield this season.

SINGAPORE, 12 APRIL 2018A much-changed Geylang International FC side will be looking to get the monkey off their backs when they host Balestier Khalsa FC at Bedok Stadium on Saturday night, April 14. Kick off is at 5.30pm.

BACKGROUND It is almost two weeks into the new Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) season and three teams are still awaiting their first win.

One of them is Geylang, who are very much a work in progress having retained just four players and undergoing a change in coaching staff.

Under Japanese Head Coach Hirotaka Usui, the two-time league champions have shown good fitness levels and the ability to build up from the back, but took just one point from two outings.

In their season-opener against Warriors FC, they required a late Ryan Syaffiq goal to salvage a 1-1 home draw. Then in last Saturday’s Eastern Derby, they pushed Tampines Rovers FC hard before going down to a 3-1 away defeat.

This coming game against Balestier gives Geylang the hance to get that elusive first win before a tough run of fixtures comes along against Brunei DPMM FC, Home United FC and Albirex Niigata FC (S).

On the other hand, the Tigers managed to avoid a repeat of last season where they lost their opening three fixtures, which set the tone for a poor overall campaign.

After losing 3-1 and 0-1 to Home and Albirex respectively, they picked up their first points of the campaign with a convincing 3-1 victory over in-form Young Lions. New attacking duo Keegan Linderboom and Vedran Mesec have already opened their accounts for the season, a good sign for Head Coach Marko Kraljevic as they look to cure their 2017 goal-scoring ills.

Balestier will, however, have to battle against fatigue, with this being their fourth game in 11 days. History is also against them as they have lost the last five head-to-head encounters against Geylang and not won in any of the last 10. Their last victory against the Eagles came all the way back in March 2015.

TEAM NEWS Geylang will continue to miss the services of veteran defender Zulfadli Zainal Abidin as he serves out the second of his two-match suspension for a straight red against Warriors.

Meanwhile, Balestier do not have any injury or suspension troubles and 2017 Young Player of the Year Hazzuwan Halim is expected to start again after a standout display against Young Lions the last time out.

Geylang: WLLDL
Balestier: LWLLW

Geylang 2-0 Balestier – Singapore Premier League
Balestier 0-2 Geylang – League Cup
Balestier 0-1 Geylang – Singapore Premier League
Geylang 2-0 Balestier – Singapore Premier League
Geylang 2-1 Balestier – Singapore Premier League

Ryan Syaffiq – Geylang
After a less-than-ideal 2017 campaign which saw him failing to deliver any goals, Ryan has started this season on fire with a goal and an assist in two matches. Deployed in a wide role, the attacker has the pace to threaten opposition full-backs and also showed the willingness to track back to help out the defence when required.

Vedran Mesec – Balestier
It always helps as a foreign signing when you hit the ground running and Mesec will be glad that he managed to score his first goal a few nights ago via a thunderous free-kick. Apart from the goal, the Croatian also showed good ability to hold up the ball with his 1.88m frame against the Young Lions and he can only improve from here.

Geylang midfielder Azhar Sairudin:
“We were really disappointed against Tampines because we felt that we could have brought back a point after a good second-half performance. Now we have to bounce back against a tough Balestier side and it’s important that we get an early goal to settle down against them.

“Personally, 2017 wasn’t that good a season but it’s a brand new year with a new team. It feels satisfying to have (help) set up the goal (against Tampines) and I hope I can continue to help this team.”

Balestier midfielder Hazzuwan Halim: “It’s a great feeling to have gotten our first win in my first start of the season. I’m just glad that I had the chance to bring something to the team and fight together with my team-mates. It won’t be easy against Geylang, but all we have to do is to stick to our coach’s game plan and keep our focus to win again.”

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