News • October 13, 2016
White Swans Eager To Get Title Hopes Back On Track Against Cheetahs
Written by: Darren Ho
Albirex Niigata (S) vs Hougang United
(Friday, 14 October, 7.45pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
After their dismal 2-0 defeat to Warriors FC before the international break, Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League leaders Albirex Niigata (S) will look to recover and reignite their impressive run-of-form all season when they take on Hougang United at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday.
In a fixture where there is low margin for error, both sides will be tempted to snatch the victory they crave for, as Albirex will hope to finish this season at the summit, while Hougang seeks to defend their fourth spot from their bitter rivals and work towards AFC cup qualification for 2017.
The White Swans have only lost four and drawn twice in their 21 games played this season, and overcoming the Cheetahs with another three points will see them edge closer to their domestic quadruple, having already won The New Paper League Cup and the Great Eastern Community Shield. The Japanese side are also in the final of the RHB Singapore Cup.
Albirex has beaten Hougang in four of their last five S,League encounters, but will now face the formidable Cheetahs which has secured 10 points in their last 5 games, including a terrific 2-1 victory over former second-seeded Tampines Rovers, to hand White Swans a huge favour at the top.
Albirex head coach Naoki Naruo will be furious if his team lose the game through set-pieces once again, and has called upon his team to strive for suceess in their last three fixtures.
“I want the players to change their mindsets, to be confident and focus game by game,” he said.
Hougang’s Stipe Plazibat will be a key man for Albirex to watch, having contributed to the Cheetahs’ strikeforce with 15 goals scored this season, to put him as the club’s top scorer and a contestant in the S.League leading scorers.
While Albirex do have the best defensive record in the S.League this season, they do also have ample striking options, as Japanese duo Atsushi Kawata and Tatsuro Inui will boost the White Swans’ squad with attacking confidence, having already notched 12 goals and 10 goals respectively.
The Cheetahs will definitely need to unlock their opponents’ solid backline and search for goals to solidify their stiff goal deference, having only produced 32 goals and conceded 30 this season.
Hougang head coach K Balagumaran has encouraged his team not to be intimidated by the strength of their opponent or by the AFC cup expectations layed upon them.
He, just like every other manager at this stage of the competition, will be gunning for all three points to hold Albirex in their tracks for supremacy.
Albirex Niigata (S) – WWWWL
30/09/16 Warriors FC 2-0 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)
22/09/16 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Geylang International FC (S.League)
13/09/16 Balestier Khalsa 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S) (Singapore Cup)
09/09/16 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Balestier Khalsa (Singapore Cup)
19/08/16 Balestier Khalsa 0-1 Albirex Niigata (S) (S.League)
Hougang United – WWLWD
01/10/16 Hougang United 1-1 Balestier Khalsa (S.League)
23/09/16 Garena Young Lions 0-2 Hougang United (S.League)
26/08/16 Hougang United 1-2 Brunei DPMM (S.League)
17/08/16 Tampines Rovers 1-2 Hougang United (S.League)
12/08/16 Hougang United 4-2 Home United (S.League)
15/06/16 Hougang United 1-2 Albirex Niigata (S)
02/04/16 Albirex Niigata (S) 2-0 Hougang United
20/11/15 Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Hougang United
28/08/15 Hougang United 1-1 Albirex Niigata (S)
01/05/15 Albirex Niigata (S) 2-1 Hougang United