Singapore Football

Hariss poser for Bojan

He is Singapore's midfield powerhouse and already the Lions' vice-captain at 23, with 38 caps to his name.

But Hariss Harun, who signed a two-year deal with moneybags Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) before the start of the season, might have to watch most of his team's mouth-watering Malaysian Super League (MSL) clash with the LionsXII at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight from the bench.

JDT drew 2-2 with fellow title-hopefuls Pahang last Friday, with Hariss coming on as a second-half substitute.

While coach Bojan Hodak has been happy with Hariss' performances, the Croat said he has had to sacrifice him in order to play a more attack-minded game.

MSL rules state that while each team can sign four foreign players, only three can take to the pitch at any time during a match.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Hodak said: "Hariss has played really well in the last few matches and I left him on the bench in the last game because of tactical reasons.

"We knew Pahang would play two foreign defenders, so I needed our two foreign forwards (Argentinians Luciano Figueroa and Jorge Pereyra Diaz) to give them problems.

"Will Hariss play against the LionsXII? There is always a possibility.

"He is a great utility player - even if I pick him to play as goalkeeper, I think he'll do well - and every coach likes a player like this."

Hodak is looking to make "one or two" changes to the team who started the Pahang game, which the Southern Tigers failed to win despite going in front twice.

Figueroa and Brazilian defender Marcos Antonio both suffered head injuries last week, and Hodak claimed he had not decided on his starting 11.

Few will be surprised if he does throw Hariss on from the start, counting on the Singaporean's eagerness to perform well in front of a sellout crowd against his former teammates.

The midfield star admitted he has been waiting for this fixture all season.

"Yeah, it was one of the matches that I looked out for when the fixture list came out," Hariss told TNP.

"Jalan Besar is a special place for me. I won the MSL title there (last season) and I had many good games with the national team, so returning 'home' is something I'm looking forward to.

"But I'll be with a different team and it'll be a different experience. It's a bit weird, but I guess I just have to do my job."

While Hariss admits his stint in JDT hasn't exactly been a bed of roses, he believes he is benefiting from having to always prove his worth.

"I didn't come here thinking I'd be in the first 11 all the time, considering the foreign-player rule," he said.

"After my first start in February in the FA Cup against Kedah, I managed to start a few more games so it has been good.

"From what I've seen, coach Bojan is looking to rotate his foreigners, so I just have to work extra hard and perform whenever I'm given the chance."

With the LionsXII struggling to string together a good run of results, there is talk they will be no match for a JDT team packed with Malaysian internationals and foreign stars.

But Hariss warned: "I know the LionsXII boys more than anyone else. The higher the stakes, the better they'll perform.

"I'm looking forward to the match and I know it'll be a good battle."