Home United have the chance to avenge a 1-0 defeat to Tampines Rovers one and a half weeks ago when they entertain the same opponents at Jalan Besar Stadium on Sunday evening in the Singapore Premier League (SPL).
Try as they might, Tampines simply could not find the consistency to trouble runaway leaders Albirex Niigata FC (S) – who are now 14 points clear at the top.
A four-match winning streak was followed by a shock 3-2 home defeat to Warriors FC in mid-June. They then put together two straight wins, before being brought back down to earth once again in a 2-0 home defeat to Brunei DPMM on Wednesday.
The Stags are now looking over their shoulders in the bid to finish second. Home are four points behind albeit having played a game more, while Brunei DPMM FC are seven behind with two crucial games in hand.
This upcoming fixture against Home marks the start of a tough 11-day period, with away trips to Albirex and DPMM up next.
Speaking to FOX Sports Asia, midfielder Hafiz Sujad wants his side to bounce back quickly to strengthen their grip on second place.
“It (the 2-0 defeat to DPMM) was just one of the nights where everything did not turn out right for us,” said 27-year-old. “But definitely we need to improve as a team and step up our game. Second place is our priority – we need to be there and we must be there.
“We’re taking one game at a time… Yes we have some difficult games coming up, but we just need to pull together as a team and motivate each other. We know we are strong as a team and we need to have more belief in ourselves.”
As for Home, they were not at their best but still managed to pick up a 2-0 win over Warriors FC in the midweek Uniformed Derby.
That made it two straight wins after the 1-0 reverse to Tampines one and a half weeks ago – a defeat which defender Faritz Hameed is keen to avenge.
Both sides will meet again in the two-legged Singapore Cup quarterfinals, before Home turn their attentions to the AFC Cup where Philippines champions Ceres-Negros stand in their way of becoming ASEAN Zonal champions.
“Facing them again so quickly after that loss, we have to get the win this time and get closer to them in the table,” said 28-year-old Faritz. “The Singapore Cup is a different ball game, so we just have to focus on the task in hand before we play them again.”
TEAM NEWS: For Home, Sirina Camara and Juma’at Jantan are out with season-ending injuries while Fazli Ayob is still unfit for action.
Song Ui-Young is recovering well from a pulled hamstring that saw him miss the last four games, but it remains to be seen if the talismanic South Korean attacker will be risked for this one.
As for Tampines, they have a largely full-strength squad – barring Shannon Stephen and Safirul Sulaiman who are out for the season due to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries.
Home United FC: WDLWW
Tampines Rovers FC: WLWWL
26/06/18 Tampines 1-0 Home – Singapore Premier League
18/11/17 Tampines 0-0 Home – Singapore Premier League
23/10/17 Home 0-2 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
12/05/17 Tampines 3-2 Home – Singapore Premier League
10/09/16 Home 1-0 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:
Shahril Ishak (Home United FC)
Receiving the ball with his back towards goal, he took a few nifty touches to shrug off his marker before firing home with his supposedly weaker left foot with aplomb. 34-year-old Shahril may be going on in age, but he is still very much one of the best Singaporean attackers in the business. That goal against Warriors was his 12th goal in all competitions this season – to go with 11 assists – as he continues to defy the critics.
Irfan Najeeb (Tampines Rovers FC)
An ankle injury hindered his progress previously, but Irfan has since slotted back into the team seamlessly since recovering and is replicating his solid performances earlier in the season. The centre-back, who turns 19 on 31 July, will need to put sentiments aside to shackle his uncle Shahril in this crucial clash.
WHAT ELSE THEY SAID:
Home defender Faritz Hameed: “It’s important for us to put pressure on Tampines… We need to keep winning and collecting as many points as possible.
“Winning the AFC Cup zonal final will be a good highlight of the team’s efforts and qualities. But we also want to go the distance in the Singapore Cup and finish as high as we can in the league. Only that will constitute a good season for Home United because that’s where we belong.”
Tampines midfielder Hafiz Sujad: “Home will want revenge for the last meeting, but we cannot worry too much on that – we just have to focus on how we’re going to play.
“It felt great to make my first start of the season against DPMM, playing in a left wing-back role. I’m still a bit rusty here and there… And honestly I’m not entirely happy with my own performance, but I’m happy that I’m getting those minutes under my belt.
“I need to settle in fast and gel with the team… Maybe one or two more games, then I’ll be ready to go all out. Right now, I’m not going to pressure myself too much until I can’t play my game. I’ll just do what I’ve been doing – work hard and play hard.”