As it stands, the race for second spot in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) boils down to the final match of the season for both Tampines Rovers and Home United.
The Protectors currently have the upper-hand, as they sit in second spot with 42 points, three ahead of the Stags. A draw would be enough for Aidil Sharin’s side to earn their best finish to a season in five years.
On the other hand however, Tampines have the upper hand when it comes to goal difference – they have a plus-four advantage, which means that all the Stags have to do is to grind out a win and reclaim second spot.
At stake as well is a spot in the AFC Champions League qualifiers. Yet, it won’t be as straightforward for either sides.
Tampines have two key players – Yasir Hanapi and Fahrudin Mustafic – suspended after they were sent off in their previous matches. For Home, they are coming into the game with just two days of rest after their 3-2 defeat to Albirex Niigata FC S in the Singapore Cup semi-final, and will have an eye for the second leg next Wednesday.
Stags forward Zulfadhmi Suzliman lamented the loss of both Yasir and Fahrudin, but believes that the team will be able to cope well still.
“Of course it’s a big loss as they both are our main players,” said the Singapore international.
“But we still have other players that are capable of replacing them so we have nothing to worry about. We’ve also played games without them.
“We’ve been preparing really hard for Saturday to get the second place. With what we showed during training for this week, I think we are all ready to get the three points.”
As for Home captain Izzdin Shafiq, he has urged his teammates to focus on the Stags instead of their Singapore Cup challenge.
“We are not thinking about Albirex yet. Right now, we are driven to do well against Tampines. The primary objective is to recover really well before taking on Tampines on Saturday,” he said.
“We need to stay focused and compact as a unit. When we work together as a unit, it’s difficult to break us down. We need to put our loss against Albirex behind and restart again against Tampines.
“It’s the last league game of the season, we must give it our best shot.”
Tampines will miss the suspended Yasir and Mustafic. They should have everyone else available though.
The only unavailable player for Home is goalkeeper Rudy Khairullah, with Kenji Rusydi expected to continue deputising for him. Song Ui-young should return to the team too, having been rested in the Singapore Cup semi-final first leg match.
Tampines Rovers: LLWLW
Home United: LWWWL
19/08/18: Tampines 1-3 Home – Singapore Cup
27/07/18: Home 1-2 Tampines – Singapore Cup
08/07/18: Home 0-0 Tampines – Singapore Premier League
26/06/18: Tampines 1-0 Home – Singapore Premier League
18/11/17: Tampines 0-0 Home – Singapore Premier League
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR
Khairul Amri – Tampines
The Singapore international scored twice over both legs against Home and is undoubtedly the biggest goal threat for Tampines. With 14 league goals as well, Amri is also the current top local scorer as well.
Song Ui-young – Home
The South Korean netted a hat-trick against Warriors the last time out and was rested by Aidil against Albirex, perhaps with an eye on the final league game of the season. Song has been brilliant this season, and there will be no better way for him to cap it off with yet another showing against Tampines.
WHAT ELSE THEY SAID
Tampines winger Zulfadhmi Suzliman: “I think with Home playing in the Singapore Cup, it gives us a little advantage because they have less time to recover and prepare for the game.
“Second spot is what we aimed for but this is football and anything can happen even though we started off well in the SPL. We gave our best during the whole season and we will continue to do our very best this Saturday and fight for the second spot.”
Home United midfielder Izzdin: “Of course, all of us want to win! It’s a step forward for us because we finished third last year. We will want to play in the ACL qualifiers, it’s a more significant challenge for us, but we want it really badly. I’m incredibly proud of my team this year, so we must give everything in this final league game of the season.
“As a captain, I always encourage my teammates to give their all in their game. We are representing Home United, we need to do well for our fans and the club.”