Home eye first League Cup final
Much at stake as both teams look to keep their season alive
BRUNEI DPMM v HOME UTD
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
Brunei DPMM are trying to record a fourth triumph after wins in 2009, 2012 and 2014, while Home United are aiming to lift the trophy for the first time.
No matter which side of history they are on, both teams head into tonight's semi-final of The New Paper League Cup knowing the tournament represents their last realistic chance of silverware this season.
Defending Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League champions DPMM and Home have already been eliminated from the RHB Singapore Cup and are both 12 points adrift of Albirex Niigata with just eight games left in the league.
"After a poor first half to the season, we want to finish strong, and we would love to be the first to win this competition four times," said DPMM coach Steve Kean.
They will miss the suspended Portuguese predator Paulo Sergio, but still appear to have the upper hand with an otherwise full squad, while Home are missing four players who are away on a training tour with the Singapore national team.
Crucially, Home will also be missing key winger Faris Ramli, who is injured.
DPMM have form on their side as they have won their last four matches before tonight's match at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Recalling how his side were hammered 5-0 by the Protectors in May, Kean was not about to underestimate his opponents.
He said: "After that loss, we spent lots and lots of hours on the training ground, getting the players to think more defensively, especially in terms of getting men behind the ball when we lose possession.
"We have been scoring more and conceding less, beating Warriors FC (4-0), Hougang United (2-0) and Tampines Rovers (2-1) in this competition. It is good to pick up our belief with victories on the bounce but Home United will be a different preposition in a semi-final.
"Even without their national team players, they still have Ken Ilso, Sirina Camara and Song Ui Young. They are a well-gelled and well-drilled team and we respect them. It will be a tough match.
"We have seen quite a few goals in this tournament but, in the knockout stages, I think this will be a game about both defences, and the team that defend better will make it to the final."
His opposite number Philippe Aw agreed, and he's banking on his trio of imports to make an impact.
Aw gave credit to defender Sim Teck Yi and midfielders Haziq Azman and Syahiran Miswan, who have stepped up from the bench and the Prime League to help steer the team into the final four.
"Missing five key players, we are happy to make it out of our group (after a 2-0 defeat by Albirex, a 5-0 win over Geylang International and a 2-2 draw with Balestier Khalsa).
"Our younger and more inexperienced players have shown they are capable of contributing.
"We enjoy playing a good game on good pitches, so we are not going to sit back at Jalan Besar.
"We want to make it to our first League Cup final and then aim to be the first Home United team to win this competition. To do so with a younger team without our key players would be very meaningful and great motivation, as well."
They are a well-gelled and well-drilled team and we respect them. It will be a tough match.
— DPMM coach Steve Kean on Home United