Balestier Khalsa will have a chance to claim a fourth Singapore Premier League victory when they entertain Brunei DPMM on Sunday.
Balestier Khalsa have another chance to surprise the odds when they take on Brunei DPMM in the Singapore Premier League at the Toa Payoh Stadium on Sunday.
The Tigers from Toa Payoh have benefited from a good start to the campaign and have won three of their last five matches, putting them in third place behind league leaders Albirex Niigata FC (S) and Tampines Rovers.
BACKGROUND: 2017 was pretty much a year to forget for Balestier and DPMM as they finished third-from-bottom and second last respectively.
A new campaign brings forth the opportunity to start afresh and both sides’ fortunes have changed significantly this term.
Balestier sit third with 10 points from seven games, just nine points away from matching their 2017 tally.
Much of the Tigers’ success this year can be attributed to the foreign attacking duo of Vedran Mesec and Keegan Linderboom, who were brought in by coach Marko Kraljevic in the off-season.
In particular, the latter has impressed with his hold-up play and is the league’s joint-third top scorer with four goals to his name.
However, one should not discount the work done by the locals. Experienced goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam and roving right-back Fadli Kamis form the fulcrum of the team, while young players like Shaqi Sulaiman and Noor Akid Nordin have stood out with their fearless displays.
“The team spirit is great on and off the field; we’re mostly always together wherever we go,” defender Sufianto Salleh told FOX Sports Asia. “Senior players like Zaiful and (long-term injury victim) Raihan (Rahman) always keep the players on a high by motivating us and talking to us before the game.
“Coach Marko has trained us really hard from the first day of pre-season and the team bonding we have off the field is showing in the strong performances on the field.”
Meanwhile DPMM are in fifth with seven points from four, 10 points away from what they accumulated last season.
Having a change of coach from Steve Kean to Rene Weber and a new foreign trio in the form of Volodymyr Priyomov, Mojtaba Mollasaraei and Brian McLean to replace Rafael Ramazotti, Daud Gazale and Vincent Salas seemed to have done the Wasps a world of good thus far.
Former Shakhtar Donetsk man Priyomov has caught the eye with six goals that has propelled him to the top of the scoring charts, while effervescent Iranian attacker Mollasaraei is not too shabby as well with two goals.
Long-serving forward Adi Said is enjoying himself lining up with the duo in a three-pronged attack as DPMM continue to rebuild under former Brazil Under-20 tactician Weber.
“We lost a great player in Ramazotti, but it’s good that we signed these two new forwards from Ukraine and Iran,” said the 27-year-old, who is now into his seventh season with the club. “They bring a different set of qualities to the team and I have to say it’s been fun to link up with them in attack.
“Coach Rene’s style is really different from Coach Kean’s. He has good technical knowledge and his training is helping the team so far.”
DPMM have a chance to close the gap between them and the frontrunners with a win in this one, but history is against them – having failed to win in six visits to Toa Payoh since returning to the SPL in 2012.
Meanwhile a point or more for Balestier will see them dislodge Tampines Rovers FC to go second in the table.
Tampines Rovers Football Club claimed a slim 1-0 victory over Balestier Khalsa Football Club in the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League at Our Tampines Hub on Wednesday night.
Posted by FOX SPORTS Asia on Wednesday, 2 May 2018
TEAM NEWS: Apart from Raihan who is ruled out of the season due to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, Balestier will also be missing another central midfielder in Huzaifah Aziz as he is suspended for accumulating four yellow cards.
Centre-backs Nurullah Hussein and Sheikh Abdul Hadi are still recovering from injuries, so expect Sufianto to deputise alongside Shaqi at the heart of the Tigers defence again.
Meanwhile DPMM should have a fully-fit squad to call upon.
Balestier Khalsa FC: WWDWL
Brunei DPMM FC: WWLWD
16/10/17 DPMM 1-4 Balestier – Singapore Premier League
21/08/17 Balestier 2-2 DPMM – Singapore Premier League
11/07/17 DPMM 3-0 Balestier – League Cup
07/04/17 Balestier 2-1 DPMM – Singapore Premier League
26/10/16 Balestier 2-0 DPMM – Singapore Premier League
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:
Afiq Salman Tan (Balestier Khalsa FC)
With the spotlight on Linderboom, not many have noticed the underrated excellence of Afiq – who has started in six out of seven matches for the Tigers. The 22-year-old had little taste of professional football, but that is not stopping him from being a constant threat on the flanks against more experienced defenders and he is bound to add more assists to his tally of one as the season goes on.
Mojtaba Mollasaraei (Brunei DPMM FC)
Priyomov’s goalscoring acts have stolen the show, so the efforts of Mollasaraei have gone a little under the radar. The 27-year-old is a key facet of the Wasps’ attack as well with his superb all-round play bringing three assists and two goals till date.
WHAT ELSE THEY SAID:
Balestier defender Sufianto Salleh: “It was the first time in my football career playing as a centre-back against Tampines (in the last game) and I enjoyed the experience of being the last line of defence to protect my goalkeeper from any shots or crosses. DPMM have quality foreign attackers with good height, so the only way to stop them is to be disciplined in defending and take our chances upfront if there are opportunities to score.”
DPMM forward Adi Said: “I’m confident of my team regaining the title, but not over-confident at the same time. We’ll try our best to win every game and it won’t be easy with seven straight away games (starting from this one). Balestier are stronger than last season, but we can beat them as long as we fight as a team.”