Fahrudin Mustafic backs Tampines fortress to hold up against Hougang

Tampines midfielder Fahrudin Mustafic

Tampines Rovers can extend their unbeaten home record to eight in the Singapore Premier League when they take on Hougang United on Wednesday.

Hougang United will need to muster a solid performance if they are to seal their first win of the Singapore Premier League season at Our Tampines Hub (OTH) on Wednesday night.

In their way will be Tampines Rovers who have made Tampines Hub a fortress after going seven games without defeat at home in the league.

BACKGROUND: It is no secret that the basis for a team’s success is a strong home record and Tampines are on the right track with five wins and two draws in the league since returning to their refurbished facility in the east.

Healthy crowd figures have also been reported at the Stags’ home matches at OTH. For instance, their 3-1 Eastern Derby win over Geylang International FC a little over a week ago attracted 3,373 fans.

That has buoyed Tampines captain Fahrudin Mustafic as they seek to extend their unbeaten run there to eight against Hougang.

“I still remember our first game back against Brunei DPMM (FC) in July last year – it was a little bit strange because we were not used to playing on artificial pitch,” Mustafic recalled. “But now we look much better with more games and are playing really good football at the moment.”

“We always have our fans coming to back us and it was nice to play in front of such a crowd in our last game (against Geylang). It’s really important for us to make it a fortress and make things tough for the visiting teams.”

Meanwhile with the league introducing rules to include at least six Under-23 players in a squad and reducing the maximum possible number of foreigners from three to two, Jurgen Raab’s men have struggled to compete on the continental stage.

After falling 3-1 to Indonesia’s Bali United in the preliminary round of AFC Champions League qualifiers, the Stags dropped into the AFC Cup but attained just one point from five group matches thus far and are already out of contention to make the knockout stages.

Mustafic, however, is keen to take the positives into the domestic front as they look to chase down the early pace-setters Albirex Niigata FC (S) – who have nine points from three games. The Stags are fourth, with three points from two.

“It wasn’t easy to adapt with all the new rules and you really feel that (the disadvantage) when it comes to the AFC level,” he commented.

“But we’ve been improving in our last two games (2-1 away losses to Johor Darul Ta’zim and Song Lam Nghe An) and that shows that we’re on the right way. Now we just have to concentrate on the league and try to catch Albirex.”

It will be a tricky prospect against Hougang on Wednesday night though, with the Cheetahs yearning for their first win after getting just one point from two games.

Philippe Aw’s side are still trying to get things right in the attacking third, but will take heart from a battling second-half display against Warriors which saw them score late on to salvage a 1-1 draw.

Attacker Fareez Farhan came off the bench that evening to win a penalty which he subsequently converted. The good cameo should have done enough to earn him a starting berth against Tampines and he will relish the chance to score at OTH again.

The 23-year-old opened the scoring early when the two sides last met there in September 2017, but the Stags fought back to claim an emphatic 5-1 win.

“It won’t be easy against Tampines with Farra (Mustafic) and (Daniel) Bennett at the back – two experienced players who have played the game for so long,” said Fareez. “But the thing about Hougang – we have players with speed. If we can get behind them during the game, we have the chance to score some goals and win.”

TEAM NEWS: Tampines have a full-strength squad to call upon, bar long-term injury victim Shannon Stephen.

As for Hougang, French-Italian forward Antoine Viterale will miss out due to an ankle injury sustained against Warriors while Jordan Chan continues his recovery from a shoulder operation.

First-choice goalkeeper Khairulhin Khalid is also a doubt due to a groin injury, but key forward Shahfiq Ghani could be back after a slight groin injury forced him to miss out the last time out.

HIGHLIGHTS: SPL – Hougang United 1-1 Warriors FC

Hougang United Football Club (HGFC) needed a late Fareez Farhan penalty to earn a 1-1 draw against Warriors Football Club in the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League on Sunday.

Posted by FOX SPORTS Asia on Sunday, 15 April 2018

 

FORM GUIDE:

Tampines Rovers FC: DLLWL

Hougang United FC: LDLLD

PREVIOUS MEETINGS:

09/09/17 Tampines 5-1 Hougang – Singapore Premier League
25/05/17 Hougang 0-3 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
03/03/17 Tampines 2-1 Hougang – Singapore Premier League
17/08/16 Tampines 1-2 Hougang – Singapore Premier League
13/07/16 Tampines 6-4 Hougang – League Cup

KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:

Jordan Webb (Tampines Rovers FC)

Webb was the star of the show the last time out at OTH, with his brace helping the Stags to prevail in the Eastern Derby. The Canadian winger – who has speed and trickery – is now back in full flow after missing large chunks of pre-season due to injury and that can only spell danger for his old employers.

Illyas Lee (Hougang United FC)

After impressing as a midfielder for the Young Lions last year, Lee has started two full games for his new club at the heart of defence. The Singapore Under-23 captain marshalled the Cheetahs backline well alongside Englishman Adam Mitter against Warriors and he will need to carry that momentum against Khairul Amri and company.

WHAT ELSE THEY SAID:

Tampines defender Fahrudin Mustafic: “Albirex’s definitely the favourites to win the title again but it’s still early into the season. We just have to concentrate on ourselves and take points to stay close to them, before we meet them again.

“Jordan and Megu (Ryutaro) Megumi are quality players who have speed and are good with one-on-ones, while Amri is still one of the best strikers in the league. These three players will make the difference for us this year.”

Hougang forward Fareez Farhan: “We have not won any game yet, but I believe we can start doing so if we continue to play good football, retain possession and convert our chances. With time and more understanding, we can definitely improve on our combination play in attack.

“Our team is full of quality and it’s very good competition for starting places. I just hope to get the chance to start against Tampines.”

 

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