Can Warriors check Albirex?
HOME UNITED v GARENA YOUNG LIONS
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Bishan Stadium)
This is a must-win for the Protectors if they don't want to lose sight of Hougang United in the race for an AFC Cup spot.
They have tripped up against the Garena Young Lions before this season, when they had to come back from 2-0 down to take a point back in June.
However, Patrick Hesse's team are running out of time to avoid an unwanted milestone. The Young Lions, on a poor run of no wins and just three draws in their last 10 league games, have nine points from 21 matches.
And after the S.League expanded to more than 20 games per season, only one team have ended the year with a single-digit points tally - Paya Lebar Punggol collected just four points after 30 games in 2009.
The Young Lions' valiant fightback from 4-0 down before losing 5-3 to Brunei DPMM FC on Monday suggests they are not about to end the season meekly. But the gulf in quality means my money will still be on the home team to win.
- Take Home United on 1X2 and ½-Goal.
WARRIORS FC v ALBIREX NIIGATA
(Tonight, 7.45pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
Can the Warriors do it again? The nine-time S.League champions, although a pale shadow of their illustrious past, were the first team to beat league leaders Albirex Niigata this season when they won 2-0 in March, and narrowly lost 3-2 in June.
Considering the White Swans have lost just thrice in the league this year, the Warriors' win was no small feat, but Razif Onn's side have been mostly disappointing.
They appear to have turned the corner by beating the Young Lions 5-2 before a 1-1 draw against Balestier Khalsa which they should have won. But it is also true that they have not kept a clean sheet in 10 games.
Goals have been coming in from every which position for the Japanese side in four successive 1-0 wins, and the Warriors need to put up a strong defensive performance that belies their record as the second-worst defence in the league.
Form suggests they won't, but for the sake of an exciting end to the season, I'm putting a small wager on an overdue upset here.
- Take draw and under 2.5 goals.
HOUGANG UNITED v BALESTIER KHALSA
(Tomorrow, 7.30pm, Hougang Stadium)
The Cheetahs would have bitten your hand off had they been offered their current position before the season started.
With four games left, they are leading the race for the second AFC Cup spot with a three-point lead over nearest rivals Home United and are on track for a historic season by finishing in the top half for the first time.
Coach K Balagumaran must be recognised for his leadership as he has guided his team back on track after a poor second round.
While his team have key imports such as Jozef Kaplan, Fumiya Kogure and Stipe Plazibat, who have all contributed at certain points, local players such as Khairulhin Khalid, Huzaifah Aziz, Anumanthan Mohan Kumar and Iqbal Hussain have stepped up.
They will need another big performance in front of their home fans against a Balestier side that have been beset by injuries this season and I'm not sure if Hougang are used to such pressure.
On their day, the Tigers are a match for any team and I don't think a draw is beyond them, which would still not be a fatal blow to Hougang's lofty ambitions.
- Take draw and under 2.5 goals.
TAMPINES ROVERS v BRUNEI DPMM FC
(Tomorrow, 7.30pm, Jurong West Stadium)
This is it for the Stags. They know Albirex can effectively win the title this week if the Warriors are beaten tonight and Tampines fail to beat the Bruneians tomorrow.
And recent results do not bode well for Akbar Nawaz's men. After presiding over an eight-match winning start, in which they scored 25 goals, Tampines have lost five and drawn once in their last 10 games, failing to score in their last three as they were knocked out of the AFC Cup and lost more ground in the S.League.
In contrast, the Wasps are absolutely flying after being relieved of the pressure of retaining their S.League title, winning 10 of their last 12 games, losing only The New Paper League Cup final to the all-conquering Albirex.
One of the hardest things to do is to convince a team to fight for a seemingly lost cause, which is what Tampines' title hopes look like now and I doubt they can eke out the win they need to prolong the agony.
- Take draw.