Contrasting morale in Warriors' and Tampines' camps
Madhu says poor form has seen the Warriors' morale plummet, while Fazrul says Tampines are buzzing after Albirex's slip-up
WARRIORS FC v TAMPINES ROVERS
(Tomorrow, 7.30pm, Choa Chu Kang Stadium)
Two local football giants clash at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium tomorrow, looking for three crucial points.
Yet, the motivation for Tampines Rovers and Warriors FC couldn't be more different.
The Stags, gunning for their sixth league title, have roared back just when it seemed Albirex Niigata would run away with the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League crown.
They find themselves back in the title race, having reduced a seven-point gap between them and Albirex to one.
But the Warriors, nine-time champions and the most successful team in S.League history, are languishing.
They have lost five straight matches since a 3-1 league win over Hougang United on June 23, and four of those defeats came in a shoddy The New Paper League Cup campaign that saw them concede 12 goals and score just once.
"What we really need is a win - to wake up," said Warriors defender Madhu Mohana.
"We've had five straight losses and team morale is low, but of course it would be.
"Any team that have lost that many in a row would be the same.
"We must bring the morale up, and a win is very important for that.
"On a positive note, the team are united, we are training well, and I can't tell you how important it is that the players are sticking together.
"But we know it's going to be tough, Tampines will have their national players back."
V Sundramoorthy's Lions team, who included seven Tampines players, had gone on a training tour of Japan and Cambodia during the League Cup campaign in July.
Belief is high in the Tampines camp, especially now that the top of the table is within touching distance.
Forward Fazrul Nawaz, who admitted to having mixed feelings about facing his former club tomorrow, said: "What DPMM did in Brunei, getting that late win over Albirex was a massive bonus for us.
"The dressing room is really buzzing right now, especially after DPMM's win. But we're taking one game at a time, and making sure we respect our opponents.
"We are going to Choa Chu Kang with a game plan because Warriors do pose a threat. I don't know what happened there but you can't just look at the league table, they've got good players.
"We want to be able to cope with their threat, and start right, by damaging their confidence."
A lack of confidence in the Warriors ranks is a problem that has not gone unnoticed, and it has been acknowledged by Warriors players themselves.
"Our problem has been making many individual mistakes. On paper we're one of the better teams, but after conceding goals, our heads go down and we concede more," said Madhu.
"But, don't forget that we are one of only three teams to have beaten Albirex in the league this year, and even when we lost to them, we gave them a good fight. Anything can happen, we must believe that."
BY THE NUMBERS
Warriors FC have lost their last five matches.
Tampines Rovers have scored 26 goals in their last nine matches.
Why Tampines can win the league
Tampines Rovers are just one point behind Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League leaders Albirex Niigata, and with just seven games remaining, small details will help decide the destination of the league title.
Here are three reasons the Stags will pip the White Swans to title:
1 Scoring boots
At the start of the season, Tampines seemed to struggle to exploit the full extent of their attacking arsenal, but the likes of Jermaine Pennant, Fazrul Nawaz, Jordan Webb, Billy Mehmet and Yasir Hanapi have since managed to click into gear.
The Stags have scored 26 goals in nine matches since June, and if they continue to keep those scoring boots laced up, there are few defences that will be able to keep them at bay.
2 Suzuki Cup ticket
National coach V Sundramoorthy has shown that he is open to calling up any player who is doing well for his club side, and that has breathed some new life into Singaporeans in the S.League.
Tampines have 14 players with a shot at earning a ticket to November's AFF Suzuki Cup, with the likes of 35-year-old veteran Mustafic Fahrudin already making it clear that he wants to pull on the Singapore shirt again.
Mustafic is vocal leader on the pitch for the Stags, and with his renewed drive, he will not settle for anything less from those around him.
3 National pride
Foreign teams have won the last four trophies on offer in Singapore football, and that has not gone down well with local clubs.
The red-and-white pride has been pricked, and Albirex Niigata - who won the TNP League Cup for the second season running - will not have an easy seven-match run to the S.League finish line.
Tampines are the only other side in the title race, and the other local clubs will be putting up added resistance every time any of them lines up against the White Swans.
- SHAMIR OSMAN