Raddy looking to the future in Tigers clash

Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic insists he will be looking at the bigger picture when his side take on arch-rivals Malaysia in Friday's friendly clash.

Baihakki Khaizan Raddy Avramovich Singapore

By Gabriel Tan

All eyes will be on the Jalan Besar Stadium when Avramovic's Lions take on their Causeway rivals in the first match of their two-legged encounter.

Both sides will be eager to record a win after disappointing results last Friday - Singapore lost to Hong Kong 1-0, while Malaysia were held to a 0-0 draw by Philippines.

But while Avramovic admits there will added pressure on his side to get a result against the Tigers, he insists he will not be distracted from his main goal of building a squad for the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup in November.

"I think it's a good opportunity to play a game which is similar to a local derby," he said at Thursday's pre-match press conference. "Both teams are in good form at the moment.

"It's good to have that bit of rivalry - it's good for both football in Singapore and Malaysia, but it should always remain healthy competition.

"We are both building our teams for future competitions, we have some new faces so let's give them a chance to play."

While it remains to be seen how the Lions faithful will take to Avramovic experimenting in what has traditionally been a must-win game due to the rivalry, the Serbian tactician insists it is beneficial that he gives a chance to several youngsters, including Tampines Rovers' Ahmed Fahmie, LIONSXII winger Safirul Sulaiman and Poh Yi Feng of Balestier Khalsa.

"We are bringing in some new faces and we should trust them in the game," he added.

"Of course you can't expect all of them to succeed but they have shown potential and we need to give them more time."

Singapore centre-back Baihakki Khaizan, who will captain the side on Friday in the absence of the injured Shahril Ishak, was quick to echo his coach's sentiments.

"As coach Raddy said, there's a lot of young blood coming into the team," Baikhakki said. "These international friendlies are more for looking at how we can rebuild.

"We also have a number of players out injured so it'll be good to see who will step up as the future of the national team.

"I'm looking forward to tomorrow's [Friday's] game. We'll try our best to win like always and hopefully it'll be an exciting game."

Considering Malaysia have only beaten the Lions once in their last eight meetings, the odds appear stacked against them on Friday, although Harimau Malaya coach K. Rajagobal insists getting his troops psyched up for the encounter will not be a problem.

"Whenever we play against Singapore the players will always be motivated," the former Malaysia international revealed. "It's a local derby and there's a lot of excitement for these games.

"Both teams will be saying the same thing; we're hoping for a good match and both coaches will want to win the match.

"Even though it's a friendly, both sets of fans will not be accepting less than a good game and it that's the case, I think the better team will win."

And while his team struggled to impress last Friday against a Philippines side they were expected to beat, Rajagobal will not be making too many changes to his starting XI on Friday.

"There are some players carrying light injuries so we'll see if it's necessary for us changes," he revealed.

"These are matches that give a lot of excitement and challenge and there will be minimal changes, if any."

One player that has come under pressure recently has been Pelita Jaya striker Safee Sali, who has struggled to find the back of the net in recent outings for the national side.

However, the 28-year-old did star when both sides met in the second round of the AFC 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying, and he admits his team-mates are eager to make amends for their failure to beat the Lions back then.

"It's an opportunity for us to prove to our fans what we're capable of," Safee said. "We weren't at our best in the World Cup qualifiers so it's time for us to get a result.

"The players will be motivated for the game."

Following Friday's game at the Jalan Besar Stadium, both sides will meet again four days later in Malaysia.



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