News Singapore Premier League • July 20, 2018

Singapore Premier League Preview: We are confident of delaying Albirex crowning, says Balestier’s Marko Kraljevic


Hazzuwan Halim (no. 7) is a key part of Balestier’s game-plan.

SINGAPORE, 20 JULY 2018Albirex Niigata FC (S) can be crowned Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League champions if they beat Balestier Khalsa FC at Toa Payoh Stadium on Sunday, 22 July. The game will be played at 5.30pm.

BACKGROUND Albirex’s 5-1 win over Young Lions, coupled with the 1-1 draw between Tampines Rovers FC and Brunei DPMM FC the same night, meant that the White Swans are only three points from securing the title.

If they do win, Albirex will be crowned league champions for the third consecutive time and they will rate among the best championship teams ever as they are yet to drop a point all season.

That Albirex Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga was so unhappy with his side’s display despite their overwhelming win over Young Lions indicates this is unlikely to change anytime soon, given his high standards.

Can Balestier be party poopers against such an invincible team? Judging by the Tigers’ recent form, you will have to say yes.

Balestier are win-less in five games, but they halted a run of three straight losses with back-to-back draws against DPMM and Home United FC respectively.

Those two teams are formidable opponents in their own right and Balestier once again underlined their potential to upset the odds with those stalemates.

Balestier have a long list of players out injured. Raihan Rahman, Khairuddin Omar and Sharin Majid are still sidelined. Keegan Linderboom only returned to training recently, while Vedran Mesec is still days away from returning.

Hazzuwan Halim and Huzaifah Aziz are available once again after serving out their suspensions.

Albirex captain Wataru Murofushi will return from suspension too, while Kaishu Yamazaki remains the club’s only absentee.

Balestier: LLLDD
Albirex: WWWWW

27/05/18: Albirex 5-0 Balestier – Singapore Premier League
08/04/18: Balestier 0-1 Albirex – Singapore Premier League
26/10/17: Balestier 0-3 Albirex – Singapore Premier League
26/07/17: Albirex 2-1 Balestier – Singapore Premier League
21/04/17: Balestier 0-3 Albirex – Singapore Premier League

Hazzuwan Halim – Balestier
Balestier will look to their tried-and-tested game plan to play on the counter and hit the White Swans on the break. With his impeccable first touch and technique, the pacey forward will be central to that.

Adam Swandi – Albirex
The whole Albirex team will need to be kept in check but it is safe to assume Adam will be pulling the strings in attack, having notched seven assists this season.

Balestier Head Coach Marko Kraljevic:
“We are confident. Hazzuwan and Huzaifah are coming back from suspensions and I told my boys, let’s be the first team to end Albirex’s winning streak.

“Hopefully, we can do it at Toa Payoh this weekend. Somebody must do it and I think we are the team to do it. It will be tough and they are the best team by far, but at Toa Payoh we will give them a good fight… we will need to work hard and give 120 per cent.”

Albirex Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga: “The players are trying to improve for the next game. I’d like to think about the problem by watching two days of training before deciding (my next line-up).

“Everyone understands that (we can seal the title with a win), but it is not particularly talked about. We are just focused on each game.

“I am pleased that there is the possibility of adding one title to this club, not my career. We would like to say congratulations to everyone if we get the title.”

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