News Singapore Premier League • December 4, 2020
Singapore Premier League Preview: Title race, AFC Cup qualification down to the wire on final day!
Albirex Niigata captain Kazuki Hashioka could get the opportunity to lift the SPL trophy
SINGAPORE, 4 DECEMBER 2020 – One of the most exciting title races in years will come to an conclusion on Saturday, with Albirex Niigata (S) the clear favourites as they go into the final day with a one-point advantage over Tampines Rovers.
A win against Hougang United will see the White Swans claim their fourth title in five seasons, regardless of what happen elsewhere in the 2020 AIA Singapore Premier League (SPL).
However, a draw or loss will open up the race for Tampines – who likely have to beat Geylang to stand any chance of becoming champions for the first time since 2013. In the event that both teams end up with both the same number of points and goal difference, then the higher placed team shall be the team that scores the greater number of goals.
The chase for the second and final AFC Cup qualifying berth as the third-best local team is equally intriguing, with Balestier Khalsa and Geylang International locked on the same number of points. Balestier will qualify as long as they match Geylang’s result and maintain their slightly superior goal difference of plus one. Should Balestier beat the Sailors by a one-goal margin, Geylang could steal the spot with an unlikely three-goal victory over Tampines. Alternatively, the Eagles could qualify with a one-goal loss to the Stags, if Balestier are defeated by a three-goal margin.
At the other end of the table, Tanjong Pagar United have to beat the Young Lions – one place and one point above them – to avoid finishing bottom, as well as the ignominy of becoming the first team in league history to not win a single game during a season.
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White Swans one win away from success
Hougang United vs Albirex Niigata (S) | 5 Dec | 5.30pm | Hougang | Singtel Ch 111
Albirex’s Ryosuke Nagasawa (R) battles Nazrul Nazari of Hougang
Team news: Hougang will miss the services of Maksat Dzhakybaliev, with the young Krygyzstani centre-back serving a one-match suspension for accumulating of four yellow cards. With Zachary Anderson and Charlie Machell already no longer part of the club, the Cheetahs will field an all-local lineup. As for Albirex, they are in a clean bill of health with veteran Singaporean attacker Fairoz Hasan set to start against his former club.
- In the previous meeting in November, Albirex triumphed 4-0 to inflict Hougang’s biggest defeat of the season and break a five-game win-less streak in all competitions against the Cheetahs.
- Hougang have not won the last two meetings at Hougang Stadium since a 2-1 league win in July 2017. Fairoz scored a 48th-minute winner, while Gareth Low also started for the Cheetahs against his current employers.
- Hougang have not kept a clean sheet in the last 11 encounters in all competitions since a 0-0 draw at Hougang Stadium in the 2017 League Cup group stages.
- Hougang have conceded the first goal in their last five outings.
- Hougang have kept just one clean sheet in 16 competitive games this season.
- Albirex’s Tomoyuki Doi has 11 goals in 13 appearances this season.
- Doi needs to score four goals to overhaul Stipe Plazibat’s tally of 14 in the race for the Golden Boot.
Last chance saloon for Jaguars
Tanjong Pagar United vs Young Lions | 5 Dec | 5.30pm | Jurong East
Young Lions’ Shahrulnizam Mazlan (R) scored against Tanjong Pagar in their previous encounter
Team news: Apart from the injured duo of Delwinder Singh and Ignatius Ang, struggling Tanjong Pagar may also miss Japanese midfielder Shodai Nishikawa through injury as the Jaguars target a long-overdue first win. Nothing less than three points will see them finish bottom for the first time since 2004. As for the Young Lions, key midfielder Hami Syahin is unlikely to be available after missing the last two games due to injury.
- Tanjong Pagar are still waiting for their first win since beating Harimau Muda B 5-0 in October 2014.
- Anything other than a win will see Tanjong Pagar become the first team in the league’s 25-year history not to win a single game all season.
- In the previous encounter in October, Young Lions triumphed 2-1 for the first of their two wins this season.
- There have been no goal-less draws in the last 12 encounters since a stalemate in March 2011 at Queenstown.
Tigers eye revenge to secure AFC Cup berth
Lion City Sailors vs Balestier Khalsa | 5 Dec | 5.30pm |Bishan | Singtel Ch 113
Song Uiyoung fires in a goal against Balestier in the Sailors’ previous encounter with them
Team news: The Sailors will miss experienced right-back Aqhari Abdullah and young winger Haiqal Pashia due to injury, while question marks remain over the fitness of top scorer Stipe Plazibat – who has been out with a niggling hamstring problem of late.
Meanwhile, Balestier will continue to miss young Serbian centre-back Ensar Brunčević – who is still recovering from an injury that forced him to miss the last eight matches.
- In the previous encounter a month ago, the Sailors triumphed 7-1 to dish out Balestier’s biggest defeat since April 2019.
- Balestier won the last two encounters in all competitions as the designated away team, with identical 3-1 victories over the Sailors’ predecessor Home United in 2019.
- Balestier could win three straight games for the first time since October 2015.
- The Sailors have scored in every game this season, bar the 4-0 thrashing by Tampines back in March.
- Balestier’s Kristijan Krajček has scored in each of his last three appearances in this fixture – with five goals in total.
An Eastern derby with high stakes
Tampines Rovers vs Geylang International | 5 Dec | 5.30pm | Our Tampines Hub | Singtel Ch 112, StarHub Ch 202
Jordan Webb (L) will be back to wreak havoc for Tampines against Geylang
Team news: Canadian talisman Jordan Webb could return to the Tampines starting eleven after an impressive performance off the bench in the 1-1 midweek draw with the Sailors, as the Stags look to entertain in the first SPL match with fans since March 14, while hoping to overhaul Albirex for the title.
For Geylang, club top scorer Khairul Nizam is suspended after receiving a red card the last time out, while the Under-23 duo of Adam Hakeem and Nur Luqman Rahman are doubtful due to injuries as the Eagles look to better Balestier’s result to claim an AFC Cup spot.
- Geylang have won just one of the last 10 encounters in all competitions – a 2-1 win at Jalan Besar in August 2019.
- There have been no goal-less draws in the last 32 meetings in all competitions since a stalemate at Jalan Besar in July 2010 – current Tampines captain Yasir Hanapi came on as a second-half substitute for the Eagles in that game.
- Tampines have scored in 33 straight SPL matches – a run that stretches back to March 2019.
- Tampines are on their longest unbeaten run in a season – nine matches – since 2017 when they went on a similar streak for their final nine league games that year.
- Tampines could go 10 matches unbeaten in a season for the first time since September 2012.
- Tampines’ Boris Kopitovic has seven goals in his last seven outings.
- Webb has scored just once in his last seven appearances against Geylang – a penalty conversion in a 1-1 draw at Our Tampines Hub (OTH) in May 2019.