By Gabriel TanFollow @@gabetan13
Following the transformation of LIONSXII to an under-23 side, with the exception of five overage players, the off-season has seen a host of star names make their way back to the S.League, including Khairul Amri, Shahdan Sulaiman and Sufian Anuar, but only one of the made it to our first Team of the Week of the year.
Defending champions Tampines Rovers got their campaign off to a bang with a resounding 5-0 win at Eastern derby rivals Geylang International on Wednesday, while new Hougang United coach Alex Weaver got off the mark by leading his side to a 1-0 triumph over Courts Young Lions.
Thursday's action saw Warriors FC come from behind twice to salvage a 2-2 draw at Woodlands Wellington, but there were no goals at the Bishan Stadium as Home United failed to find a way past DPMM FC.
Finally on Friday, Tanjong Pagar United issued a real statement of intent as they romped to a 3-1 triumph over Balestier Khalsa at the Jalan Besar Stadium, while Albirex Niigata (S) toiled to a 1-0 win over Harimau Muda in the first S.League match to be hosted at the Pasir Gudang Corporation Stadium.
Here, FOX Sports picks our best 11 players from the first week of 2013.
GK: Wardun Yussof (DPMM FC)
The Bruneian goalkeeper is known for his susceptibility to make the odd clanger or two, and it wasn't a completely nerveless performance on Thursday as he twice dealt with dangerous crosses in unconvincing fashion.
But Wardun did stand tall when it really mattered and made a series of smart saves to keep Home at bay, especially in injury-time when he claimed a testing Lee Kwan-woo corner with authority under real pressure.
RB: Jufri Taha (Tampines Rovers)
Given the new faces at the Clementi Stadium this season, a significant number of Tampines' back-to-back title-winning squad have been relegated to reserve roles, but Jufri has been handed the chance to impress by coach Nenad Bacina and he hasn't disappointed yet.
Against the Eagles, he completely smothered Jalal but also dealt admirably with the threat of Jozef Kaplan, who regularly drifted out left, and his steady display allowed his midfielders, especially Firdaus Kasman on the right, to push forward with no worries whenever they were in possession.
CB: Syaqir Sulaiman (Hougang United)
The departure of Croatian centre-back Stanislav Vidakovic has left a gaping hole in the heart of the Cheetahs defence, but thankfully for new boss Weaver, he has two more-than-capable replacements in Syaqir and Hasree Zais.
When Vidakovic was sidelined with a serious knee injury towards the end of last season, both players showed promising signs of forming a solid partnership, and they picked up where they left off at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday.
Syaqir, who is set to have a greater leadership role this year, was particularly impressive in his duel with Sahil Suhaimi but was equally effective at the other end of the pitch, netting what proved to be the winner in the 42nd minute when he glanced home a Mamadou Diallo corner at the near post.
CB: Dino Drpic (DPMM FC)
Although Wardun played his part in DPMM keeping a clean sheet at the Bishan Stadium, new signing Drpic had an equally integral role as he weighed in with a number of vital interceptions and tackles.
But his most telling contribution arguably came in the 17th minute when he was perfectly positioned to boot the ball away before the unmarked Masato Fukui could reach a cross from Sirina Camara, who had powered past Sairol Sahari and made his way into the opposition box.
LB: Sirina Camara (Home United)
While Camara impressed last season playing as a centre-back for Young Lions, he is still most damaging when he's allowed to push forward with regularity in wide role.
That was exactly where Protectors coach Lee Lim-saeng deployed him on Thursday and he was one of Home's best players as he bombed down the left with regularity, posing real problems to Sairol and Helmi Zambin with his pace and strength.
When Home were on the back foot, the Frenchman was also alert enough to drift into the middle and provide an extra man in the box, and weighed in with a couple of good clearance headers.
RM: Jordan Webb (Home United)
Apart from Camara, Webb was the other outstanding Protector against DPMM and he could have found himself with a number of assists to his name had his team-mates been more prolific with the chances he created.
The ex-Hougang star was almost impossible to tackle and gave both opposition wing-backs a tough time as he swapped positions with Indra Sahdan Daud and Aliff Shafaein at will.
On one of his trademark mazy dribbles down the wing, Webb ghosted past two opponents before drilling the ball to the edge of the box, only for Lee Kwan-woo to blast an effort narrowly over.
CM: Kamel Ramdani (Tanjong Pagar United)
Following two consecutive second-from-bottom finishes, 2013 looks set to be a year of improvement for Tanjong Pagar under French coach Patrick Vallee, who guided Etoile FC to the title in 2010.
Vallee immediately rang the changes by bringing in a foreign contingent entirely made up of his compatriots, including France-born Moroccan international Monsef Zerka, who used to play in the French Ligue 1 with Nancy.
But while the 31-year-old did show very promising signs on Friday, the star of the show was undoubtedly Ramdani, who put the Tigers to the sword with two assists and a goal.
Having played an incisive pass for Zerka's opener, Ramdani got added his name to the scoresheet shortly after when he pounced on some poor defending to race through and send an emphatic effort past Daniel Ong.
After Balestier had pulled one back through Park Kang-jin, substitute Hafiz Nor went on all to seal all three points for the Jaguars with a cracking last-minute half-volley, but credit has to go to Ramdani, who sent his team-mate racing through down the right with a sublime little pass.
CM: Sazali Salleh (Tanjong Pagar United)
It was Ramdani who did the damage for Tanjong Pagar, but he was ably supported by Sazali, who performed the role of anchorman to perfection.
The ex-Tampines Rovers man worked tirelessly to shield his backline, but was also able to put his neat distribution to good use, initiating many of his side's attacks deep in their own half.
LM: Jamil Ali (Tampines Rovers)
Jamil has spent the last couple of seasons making a name for himself as a super-sub, but he was equally effective from the start against Geylang.
Making a nuisance right from the opening whistle, the 28-year-old ran Eagles right-back Khairulnizam Jumahat ragged and pounced on an error by the youngster to lay on Tampines' third goal for Firdaus Kasman.
Then, two minutes after the hour mark, Jamil got in on the act with a peach of a strike, racing onto a visionary pass by Sead Hadzibulic before sending a glorious lob over a hapless Takuma Ito and into the back of the net.
ST: Qiu Li (Balestier Khalsa)
Balestier may have ended on the losing side against the Jaguars, but one real positive to come out from the game was the impact Qiu had, especially given their struggles up front last season.
Deployed as the focal point in attack, the Singapore international gave the Tanjong Pagar defence plenty to think about and linked up extremely well with Zulkiffli Hassim after the winger was brought on at the break.
Qiu almost singlehandedly dragged his side back into the game in the second half, hitting the woodwork twice with excellent efforts; the second of which was an exquisite freekick that had Aurelien Herrison beaten all ends up.
ST: Sufian Anuar (Warriors FC)
It was a surprise that the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) decided to disband the LIONSXII class of 2012, after they finished runners-up in the Malaysia Super League and reached the semi-finals of the Malaysia Cup.
The formation of a new under-23 side meant that heroes like Amri, Shahdan, Juma'at Jantan and Shaiful Esah were all looking for a new club, but the LIONSXII's loss has certainly been the S.League's gain.
And in the signing of Sufian, the Warriors have pulled off a major coup and he certainly hasn't needed any time to settle at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium.
After opening his account in the Charity Shield against Tampines, the 25-year-old retained his spot in V. Selvaraj's starting XI on Thursday and did not disappoint, cancelling out Moon Soon-ho's first-half opener with a close-range header, before adding a second in the 87th minute after Khalid Hamdaoui had restored Woodlands' lead.
The Warriors' second goal has been officially credited to Shimpei Sakurada, but there is no doubt it was Sufian who got the telling touch that earned his side a vital point.
Images courtesy of VOXSPORTS, FAS (Shirly Hamra), Home United FC (Jaron Lee) and Balestier Khalsa FC (Andrew Lim)