Singapore Premier League • May 15, 2018

Singapore Premier League Preview: Young Lions aim to be first to stop Albirex


Naqiuddin Eunos (no. 7) has taken his chance for the Young Lions this season.

SINGAPORE, 15 MAY 2018Other title aspirants will be rooting for the Young Lions on Wednesday night, 16 May as they look to end Albirex Niigata FC (S)’ 100 per cent record and prevent them from going 14 points clear at the top of the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SPL) table. The match will kick off at Jalan Besar Stadium at 7.45pm.

BACKGROUND The Albirex express is showing no signs of stopping as they notched a seventh straight win by edging struggling Warriors FC 2-1 at Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Sunday.

Kazuaki Yoshinaga’s men were not at their fluent best, but still emerged winners through a clinical Shuhei Hoshino double to go 11 points clear of their nearest challengers in Tampines Rovers FC, Brunei DPMM FC and Balestier Khalsa FC.

That is a hallmark of a championship-winning side and they have the chance to complete the first round of fixtures with a 100 per cent record when they go away to face the Young Lions.

Ever-present defender Kaishu Yamazaki believes the sky is the limit for the White Swans’ class of 2018 as they look to emulate Arsenal’s 2003/04 Invincibles.

“The victories that we managed have led me to believe and be confident that we can do it (stay unbeaten for the whole season),” the 20-year-old said. “It is very difficult, but if we believe that we can challenge, then we can do it.

“The most important thing is to focus and try to win the upcoming games. We’ll be able to concentrate more without thinking about the previous matches.”

With this game pitting the top and bottom teams of the past two SPL seasons, not many are giving Young Lions a chance of upsetting the applecart.

But Fandi Ahmad’s boys have reason to believe too after a decent start to the season that has seen them collect seven points from four matches – already surpassing their 2017 tally of six.

A week ago, they showed good fighting spirit to salvage a 1-1 away draw against Geylang International FC through Ifwat Ismail’s late equaliser.

Midfielder Rusyaidi Salime acknowledged the disappointment of losing two points in that game, but believes that only goes to show the progress that the local developmental side has made this term.

“We have Albirex coming up next and they’re definitely the better team with good technical players,” the 20-year-old said.

“However, I believe that Coach has (thought of) the tactics to overcome them; the key for us is to be disciplined and focused throughout the full 90 minutes.

“Being the first team to stop them will definitely boost our morale for the rest of the season.”

Recent records make for grim reading the Young Lions though – they have lost the last six encounters and conceded 26 goals without reply over the same period.

Their last win against Albirex came in November 2015 where a lone Jordan Webb goal ensured they triumphed 1-0 at Jurong East Stadium.

TEAM NEWS Marauding right-back Prakash Raj will be unavailable for the Young Lions due to a one-match suspension for accumulating four yellow cards, while centre-back Shun Kumagai continues to sit out due to recovery from a knee meniscus tear.

Young Lions: LWWLD
Albirex: WWWWW

Young Lions 0-1 Albirex – Singapore Premier League
Albirex 8-0 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League
Young Lions 0-5 Albirex – Singapore Premier League
Albirex 4-0 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League
Albirex 3-0 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League

Naqiuddin Eunos – Young Lions
A virtual unknown before this season, Naqiuddin is starting to make a name for himself with some promising displays down the left wing. Always a fast and tricky customer, the raw diamond plucked from Fandi’s National Under-20s last year is beginning to shine.

Riku Moriyasu – Albirex Niigata FC (S)
With the personal accolades going to his other teammates after an impressive start to the campaign, Moriyasu’s efforts have been under the radar. The industrious wide man has the ability to whip in mean crosses from the right and has recorded two assists to date.

Young Lions midfielder Rusyaidi
: “We have a tough schedule with five games in 15 days and it’s also the fasting month, but I believe Coach knows how to manage us well over this period. I think I’ve been decent since switching from right-back to midfield, but there’ll always be room for improvement and I can definitely improve on my composure in the engine room.”

Albirex defender Yamazaki: “I think my centre-back partnership with (Shuhei) Sasahara is doing fine and we are always working to produce better results defensively. As for myself, I model my game on Sergio Ramos and I’m learning as much as I can by watching him play. My ultimate goal to be in the the Japan National Team and to play in the World Cup.”

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