White Swans target maximum points from remaining games
Nine points clear at the top of the table with six games to go, Albirex Niigata have vowed to land their second straight Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League title.
With their fate in their own hands, White Swans head coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga believes that their mission of retaining the crown is a straightforward task.
However, he also admitted that the chasing pack of Home United and Tampines Rovers are not giving them much breathing space.
Said the 49-year-old Japanese: "There is pressure from them, but we cannot do anything about their results and performances.
"We have to win our matches whether there is pressure. If we win our matches, we reach our target (of winning the league title)."
The Japanese resumed action last week following a 20-day break, beating bottom side Garena Young Lions 1-0 with 10 men.
"We were a bit rusty against the Young Lions and we made the game difficult for ourselves," said Yoshinaga, whose team have lost only two games - to Hougang United and Home - this season.
"We made a few shifts to that side, like (Shuhei) Yamada taking over from our main goalkeeper (Yosuke) Nozawa and (Hiroyoshi) Kamata, who plays at right back, moved to the middle as a central midfielder.
"We want to be a stronger team and the players need to learn to be adaptable and flexible for any situation.
"The players will face dips in form. Blips are inevitable, but they will work hard to reduce the possibility of it happening. Rest assured, we will prepare well to win all the games."
Yoshinaga also singled out Albirex skipper Shuto Inaba as their key player whose performance can dictate how they fare in the final straight.
He said: "Inaba is a very important part of the team. He always puts the team first and plays with his heart.
"He is a strong defensive midfielder, but we have been developing his killer instinct." - JONATHAN LEE