Two mid-table teams will clash in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) at Jalan Besar Stadium on Sunday as Balestier Khalsa and Young Lions go all out for maximum points.
Background: Sunday’s meeting between the Young Lions and Balestier will see two sides that started the season brightly but have since suffered a dip in form.
The Young Lions started the season with three victories and a draw in their opening six matches, but have taken just two from a possible 15 since and are on a five-game winless streak.
The Tigers incidentally also started the season with a similar record, earning 10 points from their first six matches. However, they have won once in their last five matches and that has seen them drop down the standings.
Both teams are just separated by a point in the league table, with Balestier in fourth and Young Lions one spot behind. But, despite both sides sharing similar form, it will be Balestier who enter the game with a slight upper hand. After all, they won the first meeting of the season between both sides with a 3-1 score.
More importantly however, they have lost just once to the Young Lions since October 2011 – with a record of 15 victories in 19 matches.
Another advantage that might play into the Tigers’ hands will be the fact that Sunday’s match will also be the Young Lions’ ninth in the last five weeks. And fatigue may have taken its toll, admitted centreback Adam Hakeem.
“It has been tough losing the last three games considering how well we started this season. The number of games we have played the past few weeks has had an impact on the team, with some of the goals that we conceded given away too cheaply,” said the 21-year-old.
But the Young Lions will be raring to go on Sunday as they try to get back on track, according to Adam.
“Right now we are on a losing streak and we have to stop the bleeding. We will be even hungrier to get the three points and get back to winning ways,” he added.
For Balestier’s Keegan Linderboom, it’s all about having the belief that his side are going to win and forget about their recent troubles. He added as well that despite the Young Lions’ troubles, they cannot be taken lightly.
He said: “The plan will be just like every other game, we need to go out there with the belief that we are going to win.
“Sometimes in football we need to have short term memory, move forward from the past results and focus on the current game. We have been through the same situation as them before, playing many games in a short space of time. Both teams have a lot to play for so I wouldn’t say it’s perfect timing (for us to play them now).”
The Young Lions may continue to miss midfielder Naqiuddin Eunos after he sat out the previous game against Home United.
Balestier Khalsa won’t be able to call upon the services of midfielder Raihan Rahman as well as defenders Shaqi Sulaiman and Sharin Majid. Former Warriors midfielder and free agent Syaqir Sulaiman has been spotted with the team, but with the transfer window not open until June 18, the veteran won’t be able to participate.
Young Lions: LLLDD
11/04/18: Balestier Khalsa 3-1 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League
20/09/17: Young Lions 0-1 Balestier Khalsa – Singapore Premier League
22/06/17: Young Lions 0-0 Balestier Khalsa – Singapore Premier League
02/04/17: Balestier Khalsa 1-0 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League
05/08/16: Young Lions 1-3 Balestier Khalsa – Singapore Premier League
Keep an eye out for:
Young Lions: Irfan Fandi
The Singapore international has been a rock at the back for his side this year, often coming to his team rescue with last-ditched tackles, timely interceptions as well as using his body to block shots. Not one to back down from physical challenges, Irfan will be key once more as the Young Lions face the towering Vedran Mesec and Linderboom.
Balestier: Keegan Linderboom
Here’s an interesting stat – the Tigers have lost just once when Linderboom finds the back of the net, but have lost four times in five matches when the towering striker fails to score. Simply put, when Linderboom turns up – Balestier plays a lot better.
Having not scored in his last five games, the New Zealander will be keen to prove that his early season form was not a fluke. Sunday will be a perfect opportunity for him to do so, given the outstanding performance he had in the first meeting between both sides.
What else they said:
Young Lions defender Adam: (Coach Fandi) has given us a day to rest and recuperate before we go into training on Friday to prepare for our game against Balesiter. We will be giving our all to try our best to end our hectic schedule with a win.
Balestier forward Linderboom: We have had a tough five weeks. Not only results wise, but I think we have had four injuries including myself and two suspensions as well. But the boys have shown they great character and fighting spirit, especially in the home United game. So we will bounce back.
“I think my injury came at the wrong time for me. To this day I still haven’t fully recovered but I will do my best for the team to win. Yes I’m disappointed to not have scored in the last four games but the team winning comes first.”