News • October 21, 2016

Stags Aim To Stay Mentally Strong In Clash With Tigers


Written by: Shawn Lim

Tampines Rovers vs Balestier Khalsa
(Saturday, 22 October, 7.30pm, Jurong West Stadium)

Tampines Rovers will continue their preparations for the 2016 RHB Singapore Cup final when they welcome Balestier Khalsa to Jurong West Stadium on Saturday night.

Having conceded the S.League title to Albirex Niigata (S), the Stags are now aiming to finish as runners-up in the league, as well as preparing to take on the White Swans in the Singapore Cup final, which now represents their only chance of claiming a silverware this season.

Aside from the danger of finishing empty-handed after a promising start to the season, the Stags have also ran into problems off the field, after news broke that the management was planning to slash the players’ wages across the board for next season.

Faced with the prospect of losing a huge chunk of their star-studded squad which includes the likes of former Arsenal FC player Jermaine Pennant and ex-West Ham United trainee Billy Mehmet, the Stags are struggling to stay mentally strong for the rest of this season.

After scraping past Garena Young Lions 3-1 last week, Tampines coach Akbar Nawas admitted that it was a challenge to keep his players focused on matters on the pitch, but believes that his players are professional enough to do it.

“Let’s be fair, I’ve played the game before at a certain level. It’s not easy to play under such conditions,” said Akbar.

“You’re always to going to think about what’s going to happen in the future. As a coach, it’s not easy. I have to psych myself up to give a pep talk to psyche the players up. As such, I would have taken any form of victory tonight.

“The mental part is the most difficult. This victory is a small solace for us and we can go back home with a smile on our faces, but I’m sure they’ll be thinking about it when they go to bed at night.”

Meanwhile, the Stags’ opponents on Saturday night, the Tigers, have also endured a torrid season and are set to finish second from last in the league table, their worst position since 2009.

Balestier’s fall from grace after being title contenders just last season has been well-documented and the core of their struggles can be pointed to their failure to replace key players like Poh Yi Feng, Igor Cerina and Robert Pericic.

Having started this season without the lethal partnership of Miroslav Kristic and Pericic after the latter was ruled out for three months, the Tigers struggled badly with Kristic often cutting a lone figure upfront after coach Marko Kraljevic switched from his tried and tested 4-4-2 formation to 4-2-3-1.

The signing of striker Niko Tokic midway through the season allowed Kraljevic to switch back to 4-4-2, which saw the Tigers strung together a couple of impressive results, but it proved to be too little, too late as their poor form early in the season proved to be their undoing in the league and the AFC Cup.

The Tigers will now look to salvage whatever pride they have left when they take on Tampines, as they start rebuilding for the next season.

There are no major injury concerns for Tampines aside from long-term absentee Fazrul Nawaz, but they will miss Hafiz Sujad, who is suspended. However, Akbar will welcome back Irwan Shah from suspension and will look to give Shahdan Sulaiman more game time as the midfielder continues his road to recovery.

Balestier will be able to call upon Kristic and Tokic who were both absent from the 5-0 loss to Home United last week because of injuries, but will continue to miss the suspended Zulkiffli Hassim.

Suspension: Hafiz Sujad (Tampines Rovers) and Zulkiffli Hassim (Balestier Khalsa)

Tampines Rovers – WLDLW

15/10/16  Garena Young Lions 1-3 Tampines Rovers (S.League)
01/10/16  Tampines Rovers 0-1 Brunei DPMM (S.League)
21/09/16  Tampines Rovers 0-0 Bengaluru FC (AFC Cup)
14/09/16  Bengaluru FC 1-0 Tampines Rovers (AFC Cup)
10/09/16  Home United 0-1 Tampines Rovers (S.League)

Balestier Khalsa – LLDDL

15/10/16  Balestier Khalsa 0-5 Home United (S.League)
01/10/16  Hougang United 1-1 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
22/09/16  Balestier Khalsa 1-1 Warriors FC  (S.League)
25/08/16  Geylang International 2-1 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
19/08/16  Balestier Khalsa 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)

Head to Head (S.League)

17/06/16  Balestier Khalsa 2-3 Tampines Rovers
07/04/16  Tampines Rovers 1-0 Balestier Khalsa
05/11/15  Balestier Khalsa 4-3 Tampines Rovers
21/08/15  Tampines Rovers 0-0 Balestier Khalsa
22/04/15  Balestier Khalsa 1-1 Tampines Rovers