Captain Zaiful Nizam has urged his Balestier Khalsa teammates to aim for a top-half finish in the Singapore Premier League as they prepare to face Tampines Rovers.
Balestier Khalsa will head to Our Tampines Hub (OTH) on a high as they seek to continue their four-game unbeaten streak in the Singapore Premier League against Tampines Rovers on Wednesday.
The Tigers are in rampant form and have surpassed their 2017 results with a superb start to the campaign which has put head coach Marko Kraljevic’s name up for contention to become Singapore national team coach.
BACKGROUND: Following their 2-1 victory over Warriors FC on Sunday, Balestier are currently on a four-match unbeaten run with three wins and one draw. They sit in second spot and trail leaders Albirex Niigata FC (S) by five points, having played a game more than the Japanese outfit.
This is a stark contrast to 2017, where Kraljevic’s side only amassed a six-point haul from their first six games while it took them 17 games to hit the 10-point tally – something they have already achieved.
In addition, finding the net was a problem for the Tigers last season. They managed a paltry 17 goals from 24 matches but already have eight so far, with new signing and forward Keegan Linderboom accounting for half of that.
Captain Zaiful Nizam believes the camaraderie in the Balestier camp is the key factor behind this resurgence.
“There is no secret behind this success but it’s all about working hard together as a team,” he said. “We are like a family… The bond between everyone in the team, including the foreigners, is quite close. “We have been playing according to Coach Marko’s instructions and we have shown that we can match the other teams in the league without getting hammered, so that’s a good sign.
“We have been at the bottom for the past two seasons and I think it’s about time we get back up there. I hope we learn from our mistakes and try not to repeat them.”
Tampines are meanwhile seeking redemption in the SPL after a poor showing at the AFC Cup where they garnered only one point from six group matches.
In the SPL however, Juergen Raab’s men lie a spot below Balestier in third place with seven points, albeit with two games in hand over their opponents on Wednesday. They were held to a goalless draw by Warriors in a feisty affair in their last league fixture and will thus be looking to return to winning ways.
Acknowledging the threat Balestier will pose, midfielder Yasir Hanapi is quietly confident of extending their unbeaten league run at OTH to nine games as they look to keep pace at the top.
“Credit (has to be given) to them (Balestier) for their decent start (to the season). They are a hardworking team who will come (into this game) in high spirits,” said the 28-year-old. “The morale in their team must be good and they will definitely give us a hard time by putting in the tackles, chasing after every ball as well as trying to make us lose focus with some mind games.
“Playing at home is an added motivation for us because everyone in the team wants to make it a fortress and is definitely an advantage but we cannot think it is going to be an easy game. We are aiming to up our game and improve every week.”
Balestier Khalsa Football Club seal first league victory over Warriors Football Club at Toa Payoh Stadium since 2013 with a 2-1 win in the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League on Sunday.
Posted by FOX SPORTS Asia on Sunday, 29 April 2018
TEAM NEWS: In the Tampines camp, defender Shannon Stephen will continue to miss out with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury while wing-back Irwan Shah is rated doubtful after picking up a knock in their AFC Cup defeat to Persija Jakarta last week.
Balestier similarly, will miss midfield hardman Raihan Rahman who recently went under the knife after rupturing his ACL. Defender Sheikh Abdul Hadi sat out his side’s win over Warriors with an Achilles injury and is also a doubt, while youngster Noor Akid Nordin will serve a one-match ban for accumulating four yellow cards.
17/09/17: Balestier 0-1 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
14/07/17: Balestier 3-0 Tampines – League Cup
17/06/17: Tampines 3-1 Balestier – Singapore Premier League
11/03/17: Balestier 0-1 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
22/10/16: Tampines 2-0 Balestier – Singapore Premier League
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:
Amirul Adli – Tampines
The central defender has been deployed primarily as a defensive midfielder for the Stags on a regular basis in both domestic and continental competitions this term and the 22-year-old has impressed with his high work rate as well as willingness to do the dirty work in the middle of the park. This will come in handy against a Balestier side who are known for their robust approach.
Fadli Kamis – Balestier
Since joining Balestier from the Young Lions in 2016, Fadli has been a mainstay in the Tigers side. Full of energy, the right-back not only has a penchant for bombing forward but also the ability to score, having netted four goals last year.
Up against the tricky Jordan Webb, Fadli might have to curb his attacking instincts but will look to provide an extra option when the Tigers go on the attack.
WHAT ELSE THEY SAID:
Tampines midfielder Yasir Hanapi: “I think it’s best not to think about Albirex at the moment but more importantly, about how we are going to perform and win every game.
“Every game is important to me and in football, everyone knows anything is possible. But first, you need hard work, the winning mentality and of course a little bit of luck (in order to get the results).”
Balestier Captain Zaiful Nizam: “Tampines have experienced players in their team and it will be difficult for us playing away from home but things can go either way. We want to give every team a fight and put in 100% or even more for the 90 minutes. We don’t want to walk away from the game thinking we should have done better.
“A result here will help boost our confidence before going into another tough match against Brunei DPMM FC and we definitely want to get the win, although a point will be good as well.”