S-League Preview Week 15
23rd June 2012 (Saturday)
Tampines Rovers v Balestier Khalsa
Clementi Stadium, 7.45 pm
Photo courtesy of FAS
On a high after beating league leaders DPMM last week, Tampines Rovers will face another tough opponent this week as they seek to mount a title challenge in the second half of the season.
Standing in their way is Balestier Khalsa who themselves pulled off a solid win over title contenders Home United last week, which means that a win here would see them overtake the Stags.
The away side will be quietly confident of their chances of getting a result, having already beaten the same opponents earlier on in the season.
Once again, the defensive fortress helmed by skipper Paul Cunningham and Goran Subara will be crucial to any potential success. Having dealt comfortably with Frederic Mendy last week, they will be looking to shut out Aleksandar Duric and new signing Sead Hadzibulic, who will shoulder part of the goalscoring burden now. Both strikers are experienced and are tall and physical in stature, but the Tigers’ centrebacks should be more than up for the battle.
A key face-off could be in store down the right flank, where Balestier’s livewire winger Zulkiffli Hassim will come up against Ismadi Mukhtar, who has been quietly impressing in his left wing-back role for the Stags. The winger is probably the most skilful and unpredictable player in the Balestier side and can be relied to provide moments of inspiration as his side’s main attacking outlet, so how well Ismadi deals with him will have a big impact on Balestier’s attacks.
Balestier should keep faith with the 4-3-3 formation that worked so well against Home, with Shafuan Sutohmoh likely to keep his place after an impressive debut. Sitting in front of the back-four, he will be crucial in screening the defence, as well as tracking the late runs into the box which Tampines midfielder Gligor Gligorov favors. Capped once for Macedonia, Gligorov looks to have settled in at last, netting the winner against DPMM in an all-action display, and will have to be kept reined in.
In front of him, Park Kang Jin and Tengku Mushadad will look to disrupt the play and close down Ahmad Latiff, who has the ability to orchestrate attacks from deep with his precise long-range passing, in addition to his shooting ability from outside the box.
The Toa Payoh-based side could potentially have a trump card to play in the form of new signing Zdravko Dragicevic, who will be able to make his debut if his International Transfer Certificate comes through in time. The Montenegrin midfielder-cum-striker has represented his country at the Under-19 and Under-21 levels before and will bring a much more physical presence to the frontline than Korean Kim Minho, which should suit their style of play well.
Expect Tampines to go all out for the victory on homeground but they will have to get past the miserly Balestier defence if they are to pick up all three points in what should be a tight but intriguing encounter.
Tampines last five games: LLWWW
Balestier last five games: WWLLW
Prediction: This should be a low-scoring affair and I would imagine that Balestier will be satisfied with a point. 1-1.