It will be an epic game of chess when Home United take on Albirex Niigata FC (S) in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) at the Bishan Stadium on Wednesday.
Should the Protectors take on the White Swans by going on the offensive or should they put up a defensive wall in the face of a likely onslaught?
BACKGROUND: They have gotten off to a flying start with three wins in as many games to lead the standings and the question on everyone’s lips is, can Albirex be stopped in their tracks?
Despite an overhaul of the squad that only saw two players retained, this has not prevented the reigning SPL champions from brushing aside Tampines Rovers FC, Balestier Khalsa FC and Brunei DPMM FC.
In those games, Albirex have scored five goals and conceded just one with their solid defence laying the foundation to their success thus far.
One of two Singapore Under-23 players signed by the Japanese outfit this season, Adam Swandi opened his accounts the last time out and will be keen to impress again.
The White Swans will now face a stern test in the form of Home who are seeking to reclaim the SPL crown they last won in 2003.
With one win and one loss to their name, Home have had a mixed start to the campaign and are eager to bounce back from a 4-2 defeat to DPMM. On the continental front, they remain on course to qualify for the AFC Cup zonal semifinals after edging Shan United 3-2 on the last match day.
Under coach Aidil Sharin, the Protectors are a well-oiled defensive unit who are equally effective in the final third with Shahril Ishak and South Korean midfielder Song Ui-young capable of coming up with the goods.
The hosts could well be the fresher of the two sides, with a full week of rest compared to Albirex’s four days.
TEAM NEWS: In the Home camp, defender Abdil Qaiyyim remains about six weeks away from full fitness as he continues his recovery from torn quadriceps while the availability of Song is subject to a late fitness test.
Albirex on the other hand, have a clean bill of health for this one.
It was a 28th home win at the Jurong East Stadium for @Albirex Niigata FC Singapore as they cruised to a 2-0 victory over Selamanya Brunei DPMM FC in the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League on Saturday.
Posted by FOX SPORTS Asia on Saturday, 14 April 2018
30/09/17: Home 1-2 Albirex – Singapore Cup
27/09/17: Albirex 3-1 Home – Singapore Cup
19/09/17: Home 1-1 Albirex – Singapore Premier League
13/07/17: Home 0-1 Albirex – League Cup
23/06/17: Albirex 0-2 Home – Singapore Premier League
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:
Shahril Ishak – Home
Just like fine wine, the playmaker gets better with age and the 34-year-old is currently in the form of his life. Since rejoining the Protectors, Shahril proved he is still able to compete at the highest level and has notched five goals and four assists in all competitions.
Kenya Takahashi – Albirex
The 1.68m striker has excelled in his new role as left-back where he is tasked to ensure things are kept quiet down his flank while bombing forward to offer an attacking outlet whenever needed.
Also a set-piece specialist, Takahashi is blessed with a sweet left foot and it was his cross that led to the winner in the White Swans’ 1-0 victory against Balestier.
WHAT ELSE THEY SAID:
Home defender Faizal Roslan: “I hope that the team’s form in the AFC Cup can be translated into a good performance and the three points against Albirex. We just need to be focused and I believe we can keep this run going.
“We will take one match at a time… I’m sure the coaching staff have prepared something for the team and I’m confident in our abilities to stop Albirex. It’s very important for the rest to step up and rise to the occasion.”
Albirex midfielder Hiroyoshi Kamata: “It is important for us to keep (our) winning momentum and we are looking forward to this game.
“We will challenge ourselves to play well as a team. Although our opponents (Home) are strong offensively, my word of advice to the rest of the team is to be less defensive and also to attack when the opportunity is present.
“As a winger, I want to play with a sense of responsibility; to attack when we go forward and defend (as one) when the opponents are coming at us.”