S.League returns with blockbuster clashes

The Great Eastern-YEO's S.League returns after the summer break with three mouth-watering clashes headlining the weekend.

Celebration time for Rovers!

By ESPNSTAR.com staff

League leaders DPMM FC, who're clear at the top by five points after a superb opening half of the campaign in which they suffered only one defeat, will go up against Steven Tan's Tampines Rovers at the Clementi Stadium on Friday

The Stags themselves signed off in May on a high despite an extremely hectic schedule, recording successive wins over Courts Young Lions and Harimau Muda, and will kick-off the game in third place. A win against Vjeran Simunic's charges will see them leapfrog Home United into second.

Home are in action on Sunday in what promises to be a battling clash against a tough-as-nails Balestier Khalsa outfit. The backline remains a worry for Home coach Lee Lim-saeng, although the former Republic of Korea international did swoop for Faliq Sudhir after the player impressed in the football programme First XI. 

Lee is aware of the challenge awaiting his side when they take on Balestier. 

"We drew 0-0 with them in the first round of the season - they really defended well. We know their style of play, they score few goals but they also concede little goals. Especially at their home ground, it won't be easy but I think we should get the three points and we will try our best," he told ESPNSTAR.com

The respect seems to be mutual, with Balestier coach Darren Stewart claiming his side were in for a huge test.

"I think Home United will be our biggest challengers, they just have quality everywhere. When we played them in the first round, they had a few players out - Wilko [John Wilkinson] was one of them. I think they'll be the team to beat and we've got them first up so it'll be a massive test," said the Australian.

In a bid to make their up from sixth and challenge for the top spots, Balestier have brought in reinforcements during the break, with Ridhwan Jamaludin, Fathi Yunus, Anantha Rajan now part of the roster. The Tigers also narrowly missed out on signing Etoile striker Jonathan Justin who would have been useful in easing their striking woes given that they've found the back of the net only 13 times in 12 games so far this season.

SAFFC are another side that have been quite active in the transfer market, and they'll also have three new players in the ranks (Aliff Shafaein and Croatian duo Marin Vidosevic and Marin Jonjic) when they take on Albirex Niigata at the Choa Chu Kang stadium on Sunday.

It's a tough return to league action for Richard Bok, given that Albirex are one of the most free-flowing sides around, capable of slicing open the best of defence, let alone one that has conceded 19 times in 12 outings.

"I think Albirex will pose a threat to any team with their quick passing. We need to be at our best to get the result we want and hopefully we can do it," said Bok.

Albirex coach Koichi Sugiyama has set his sights on the title, which means they'll need to get into the groove quickly.

"I am satisfied with our performances so far but this team can play much better," the former Urawa Red Diamonds defender told ESPNSTAR.com exclusively.

"I have been looking to improve the team every day in training. Our aim is to win the title."

But even though the SAFFC defence has looked shaky at times, the Warriros were on a four-game unbeaten streak before the break, and Sugiyama sounded a note of caution before Sunday's game.

"I think SAFFC are one of the best teams in the S.League and they will definitely try to win the title," he stressed. "Furthermore, they have contracted three new players to reinforce their squad.

"I think it will be a difficult game but we want to focus on playing our football. They will be stronger in the second round, but we are getting stronger day by day too."

Woodlands Wellington, currently off the bottom only due to a superior goal-difference to Geylang United, take on the Courts Young Lions at the Woodlands Stadium on Friday.

In Thursday's only game, Hougang United ended a six-game losing streak with a 1-0 win over Tanjong Pagar United, courtesy of a well-taken volley by Jordan Webb in the 65th minute.

Friday's Great Eastern-YEO's S.League Fixtures

Tampines Rovers vs DPMM FC

Woodlands Wellington vs Courts Young Lions

Sunday's Great Eastern-YEO's S.League Fixtures

Balestier Khalsa vs Home United

SAFFC vs Albirex Niigata

Thursday's Great Eastern-YEO's S.League Results

Tanjong Pagar United 0-1 Hougang United

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