Tampines Rovers could field three new signings tonight
Stags' three new foreigners could feature tonight
GEYLANG INTERNATIONAL v TAMPINES ROVERS
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
Champions Tampines Rovers will look a different side when they take on Geylang International tonight.
The Stags have made changes during the mid-season transfer window which opened on Monday, and signed three new foreign players.
Two of them - Slovakian attacking midfielder Jozef Kaplan and Australian goalkeeper Justin Pasfield - will be thrown straight into action tonight.
The availability of the third, New Zealand midfielder Jake Butler, will depend on whether Tampines receive his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) from his former club, Waitakere United, before the match.
Butler's agent, former Tampines defender Benoit Croissant, says he is hopeful the ITC will arrive in time.
The trio will replace Japanese defender Norihiro Kawakami and Paraguayan duo Luis Closa and Roberto Martinez Gamarra.
Stags coach Rafi Ali, who took over from Salim Moin in April, is looking forward to the contribution of the trio, but warned not to expect too much from them, too soon.
Said the 41-year-old former Singapore midfielder: "Kaplan brings energy to the team... he won't stop running. Justin communicates well, and that's good, and Jake gives us stability in midfield.
"But they've only been here a short while, so they need a bit of time before they can show what they can do."
Rafi believes the three additions will boost the Stags, who are six points behind league leaders Brunei DPMM, as they look to win a fourth successive S.League title.
The potential midfield partnership of New Zealand international Butler, 29, and Stags' star Shahdan Sulaiman, in particular, could be a game-changer.
Shahdan, 26, has struggled to rediscover the form that made him a starter in Singapore's triumphant 2012 Suzuki Cup-winning team, but Rafi believes Butler's presence and experience could liberate him.
"The stability Jake brings can help free Shahdan. That (attacking midfield slot) is Shahdan's best position, and I can see in training that he's relishing the opportunity to get forward, with Jake behind him," said Rafi.
"It's up to him now to step it up."
The rookie coach, however, is wary of the threat Geylang possess.
The Eagles went six S.League games without a win but then thumped Woodlands Wellington 5-1 in the preliminary round of the RHB Singapore Cup last week.
Tampines, on the other hand, needed penalties to see off Harimau Muda B after the teams were deadlocked at 1-1 after 120 minutes of action.
Rafi has made no secret of how upset he was over the way his team performed against the Malaysian Under-21 side, because he believes his charges have a lot more to offer.
"I've worked with these players for three years now, so I know them inside out," he said.
"There's pressure that comes with being champions three years straight but I know what they are capable of, so I just keep telling them to go out and play, because I know they can.
"A win against Geylang would also be a good morale booster ahead of our next game against DPMM, but we've got to respect Geylang as we do every team.
"But I've got a lot of confidence in the boys."
TONIGHT'S OTHER GAME
- Brunei DPMM v Home United (8.15pm, Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium)
Kaplan brings energy to the team... he won’t stop running. Justin communicates well, and that’s good, and Jake gives us stability in midfield.
- Tampines coach Rafi Ali on his new signings