Fresh Albirex set for Home
This could be a treat for fans as two high-scoring sides chase a crucial win
HOME UNITED v ALBIREX NIIGATA
(Tomorrow, 7.30pm, Bishan Stadium)
The last time they took on Home United in the 2014 Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, Albirex Niigata produced one of their best displays to claim a 4-2 win at the Jurong East Stadium back in April.
With 68 minutes on the clock, the contest was all but over as the White Swans raced to a four-goal lead courtesy of a Kazuki Sakamoto brace and goals from Kazuya Okazaki and Shuhei Hotta, before Home managed to grab two goals from Lee Kwan Woo.
The two teams face off once again at the Bishan Stadium tomorrow and, given both are among the top-scoring sides in the competition this season, many are expecting another thrilling encounter. Especially when the two teams are also chasing league leaders Brunei DPMM FC.
While Albirex can take heart from their display in their previous meeting with the Protectors, coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama insists his charges still have room for improvement.
"We didn't win perfectly in our last game against Home United," he said.
"Of course, we will take confidence in the fact that we beat them, but we will also be looking to improve in many aspects of our game - this will help the players mature as footballers.
"There's no denying that Home United are one of the strongest teams in the S.League. They have many talented individuals and the important thing in our win was that we did not focus on any specific players, but we prevented the whole team from playing to their strengths.
"The thing we have to remember playing against a side like Home is to defend as a team - that is the secret."
The game will be the first time the Japanese club are in competitive action since a 3-1 win over Warriors FC on Aug 1.
That win was only their second in the last six games in all competitions and, while a coach sometimes loathes a break because of a possible disruption to momentum, Okuyama was happy that his players had a couple of weeks off.
"The break was a good opportunity for the players to freshen up," he said. "It was indispensable in helping us get ready for the next matches and, as a result, we are now suitably prepared for three important games this month.
"Not only did we have a chance to address our weaknesses, but we were also able to work on strengthening the positive aspects of our game."
With three matches remaining in the first part of the S.League campaign, the White Swans are three points off the lead in third place, while Home are five points adrift of DPMM in fourth spot.
Okuyama is refusing to entertain any talk of winning the title and, instead, wants his players to continue the task of delivering on the pitch.
"If we can beat Home United, of course it will give us a confidence boost," he said. "However, I'm always telling my players that it's easy to talk about winning the title, but it takes a lot more effort to actually do it.
"The first step we need to take is to win this important match."