Thriller between two evenly matched, in-form teams
Albirex pass the ball well, but Balestier's hot-shot Kristic could come up tops
ALBIREX NIIGATA v BALESTIER KHALSA
(Tonight, 8.30pm, Singtel TV Ch 111 & MediaCorp okto)
They say cup competitions routinely throw up surprises.
That old charm dates as far back as the early years of association football over 100 years ago, when England's FA Cup occasionally saw Davids beating Goliaths.
That tradition has been very much present at this year's The New Paper (TNP) League Cup, which ends tonight after almost three weeks of competition among 10 teams since June 22.
Along the way, reigning S.League champions Warriors were hammered 4-0 by Balestier Khalsa, league strugglers Hougang United marched all the way to the semi-finals, and last year's League Cup winners Brunei DPMM crashed out at the group stage.
It all boils down to a tantalising climax when Balestier face Albirex Niigata at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight, in a match that pits two evenly matched, in-form teams.
Hougang coach Salim Moin, whose side fell victims to Balestier in a 3-2 semi-final loss on Monday, believes the game will be a thriller, as two teams with contrasting styles lock horns.
"You have Albirex who have more going for them in terms of playing style," he said.
"They are a good technical side who can pass the ball around well.
"Balestier, meanwhile, are a powerful side, and they have the cup's top scorer in Miroslav Kristic (five goals).
"They have a skilful No. 10 (Tarik Cmajcanin), and two strong centre backs (Igor Cerina and Emir Lotinac).
"It's very, very hard to pick a winner, plus it's a Cup competition, so anything can happen."
Former Singapore international John Wilkinson also felt that it would be a tight game, spiced up by a battle between Kristic and Albirex centre back Kento Fujihara.
"I look at Albirex, and they have scored plenty of goals that opponents haven't been able to reply," he said.
"They're also good on the ball, in the middle of the park, and that's something that I don't think Balestier will be able to counter.
"But their No. 11 (Kristic) will be a big danger. He's a good scorer, so it'll also depend on the battle between him and Albirex's centre back."
Warriors coach Alex Weaver, however, was clear in his prediction and plumped for Albirex to pick up their second League Cup trophy, having also won in 2011.
"Albirex will have too much in the locker for Balestier to handle," said the Englishman.
"It'll come down to the team who have the most chances, and I think Albirex will edge it 2-1.
"But Balestier have good forwards in Kristic and Robert (Pericic), so they'll be dangerous on the counter."
"This year’s League Cup tournament has been a thrilling affair with several upsets and exciting games. I would like to thank The New Paper once again for coming on board as sponsor of the League Cup, and we hope that Balestier and Albirex will serve up a fitting finale to a memorable tournament."
- S.League CEO Lim Chin
TICKETS ON SALE
Tickets for The New Paper League Cup final are priced at $6 for adults and $2 for students and senior citizens (concession). Fans can buy tickets from the North Gate at Jalan Besar Stadium from 5.30pm today.
Watch TNP cup final for FREE and pose with Barclays Premier League trophy
Get set for a night of great football, entertainment and selfies.
Fans who buy a copy of today's edition of The New Paper will get to watch the TNP League Cup final for FREE.
Albirex Niigata face off against Balestier Khalsa in what is sure to be a hotly contested match between two in-form teams.
Kick-off is 8.30pm so be sure to get your place early.
To gain admission, simply show a copy of the paper at the entrance of Jalan Besar Stadium. One copy entitles one person to enter for free.
As part of a publicity drive for next week's Barclays Asia Trophy, spectators can also get to see the Barclays Asia Trophy, the Barclays English Premier League trophy and The New Paper League Cup on display at the Jalan Besar Stadium Grandstand area tonight, and take photographs with the trophies.
Fans will also be in for a string of treats before the final.
There will be performances by the Albirex Niigata cheerleaders and music and dance group Izat and the Red Edge Talents.
At half-time, a lucky draw will be conducted and fans can stand to win generous gift vouchers.