The first Eastern Derby of the 2018 Singapore Premier League season will see Tampines Rovers play hosts to Geylang International on Saturday.
It will be a night of fanfare at the Our Tampines Hub on Saturday evening as Tampines Rovers welcome Geylang International for the Eastern Derby in the Singapore Premier League.
The Stags fell 2-1 to Albirex Niigata (S) in the Community Shield on March 31 and will see this game as a perfect opportunity to get their first points on the board.
Geylang on the other hand have already managed a point as they held Warriors FC to a 1-1 draw on Wednesday despite going down to 10 men.
BACKGROUND: With the first round of the Singapore Premier League (SPL) fixtures done and dusted, the second round comes around quickly and will kick off with a bang as the Eastern giants go heads up.
Traditionally a feisty encounter, the rivalry between the two sides seemed to have died down in recent years when Tampines played their games away in the west.
However normal service resumed after the Stags moved back to the east in August 2017, with the first Eastern Derby at their considerably new home ground two months later ending in an epic five-goal thriller.
Geylang managed to take the lead twice, but Tampines came back on both occasions before Fazli Ayob fired home a last-gasp winner to decide the affair. Fans will be hoping for similar entertainment this time round.
Tampines are undoubtedly the favourites to win this one, given that they have more experienced heads in the squad and extra recovery days (six after their last game as compared to Geylang’s two).
The Stags will also be looking to prove a point after failing to get the better of a new-look Albirex side once again. Jurgen Raab’s side had lost each of their last six games against the White Swans.
However one should do better than discounting Geylang’s chances. The new-look Eagles side showed their mettle on Wednesday, producing a strong second-half performance to hold title-chasing Warriors FC to a 1-1 home draw.
In particular, the Eagles showcased superior fitness levels to last the game – which is an important facet of new Japanese coach Hirotaka Usui’s philosophy at the club.
It remains to be seen if they can produce another courageous performance against a better-rested Tampines side though.
TEAM NEWS: Tampines are in a clean bill of health, apart from long-term injury victim Shannon Stephen. Key attackers Jordan Webb and Khairul Amri could be in line to start after coming on as subs the last time out.
As for Geylang, they will miss experienced defender Zulfadli Zainal Abidin through suspension after his straight red card against Warriors.
Tampines Rovers: LLDLL
Geylang International: WWLLD
15/10/17 Geylang 2-3 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
11/07/17 Tampines 1-4 Geylang – League Cup
29/06/17 Tampines 1-1 Geylang – Singapore Premier League
08/04/17 Geylang 0-4 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
04/08/16 Tampines 2-1 Geylang – Singapore Premier League
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:
Ryutaro Megumi (Tampines Rovers)
With searing pace and determination to get the ball into wide areas, Megumi was one of the standout performers for the Stags in 2017. His tally of seven goals in 24 games also got the Japanese winger a deserved nomination for last season’s Player of the Year award.
We have yet to see the best of him after an injury-blighted pre-season, but the 24-year-old has what it takes to rise to the occasion.
Shawal Anuar (Geylang International)
Similarly, Shawal had an impressive 2017 season where he hit double figures and went on a seven-match scoring spree along the way.
The electric 26-year-old has carried where he left off this term, with good performances for the Singapore national team before starring in the Eagles’ 1-1 draw against Warriors. It was his unwavering determination which saw him earn the ball off Kento Fukuda in the build-up of the late equaliser.
WHAT ELSE THEY SAID:
Tampines midfielder Amirul Adli: “It wasn’t the result we wanted against Albirex, but we showed great composure and continued to play our style of football even when we were down. That’s something which we have to keep on doing in future matches.
“For me, I take the Eastern Derby just like any other game. We just have to give our best and play good quality football for the fans. The team’s been getting better after a few AFC Cup matches and I’m confident that we will get that first win soon.”
Geylang defender Darren Teh: “This match-up have always proved to be an exciting one as neither teams do not want to lose bragging rights to be the ‘best’ team in the East. I still remember that 3-2 defeat last season and that was definitely a hard one to swallow.
“We have a massively busy schedule in April with six games so it’s important that we do not start this month with a defeat. We had one of the hardest pre-season trainings amongst the nine teams in the league, as our new coach wants to instill the Japanese culture where fitness is the priority. That had helped us against Warriors where we showed we were much fitter than our opponents.”