Aidil eyes glory in Home stretch
Protectors coach says his side can seize title momentum with win over leaders Albirex on Tuesday
Home United coach Aidil Sharin has insisted his team are not yet out of the running for the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League title, and urged his players to mount a late charge to topple leaders Albirex Niigata.
Third-placed Home United are one of two teams still with a realistic chance of overtaking the defending champions, with three games in hand to reduce a 13-point gap.
Tampines Rovers, in second place, trail Albirex by nine points but they have only a game in hand.
Home's chance to make a move on Kazuaki Yoshinaga's men will come next Tuesday, when the two teams clash at Bishan Stadium.
Aidil said it is imperative his side seize the chance to inflict a psychological blow on Albirex.
Asked if he felt a Home win can trigger a late Albirex wobble, he said: "Yes, it can.
"Just look at last year, when the title race was between them and Tampines.
"They lost 2-1 to Brunei DPMM with eight games left, and then went on to lose to Warriors (2-0), us (3-1) and Tampines (5-1).
STAGS THROW IN THE TOWEL
"Before that, they were comfortably cruising. Of course, that was last year and the team are different this year.
"But, even this season, we saw that after we beat them (in June), so did Hougang in the next game. So, if we give them a really hard time in their next three games, they might have a dip in form."
For Albirex, Tuesday's match will be the first of three back-to-back clashes with Home - the two teams face each other in a two-legged RHB Singapore Cup semi-final clash after the league fixture.
Albirex remain confident they won't slip up in the final stretch of games (see sidebar), but they will have their work cut out for them.
Tuesday's game against Home takes place less than 72 hours after they play 2015 S.League champions DPMM in Bandar Seri Begawan.
In contrast, Home will be well rested, with 11 days separating their last game - a 4-1 away win over DPMM on Sept 8 - and their Tuesday meeting with Albirex.
Aidil said: "Honestly, we are not talking about the title.
"We've always approached games one at a time and our next one is against Albirex.
"At the end of the day, we must beat them and only then will the pressure be on them."
While Aidil remains bullish about his side's title chances, Tampines coach Juergen Raab has effectively thrown in the towel.
Despite his side racking up big wins over Hougang United (5-1) and Garena Young Lions (4-0) in their last two games, the German said the points gap and a tough fixture list means the Stags' hopes of winning the title are slim at best.
Said Raab: "At the moment, the title is not an issue for us because Albirex is clear (ahead).
"We have no more matches against them, so the only thing we can do is win the rest of the matches.
"Maybe, if they lose to Home, it's a possibility, but it is not in our hands now. If Albirex keep winning, what can we do? Now, we are focused on second place."
Aidil is hopeful of a strong finish for Home.
After their 3-2 aggregate defeat by Philippine side Ceres in the AFC Cup Asean zone final last month, they have gone on to win their next three matches, scoring 10 goals along the way.
"It's good we are picking up our form again," he said.
"There are no injuries other than (winger) Chris van Huizen, so everyone is fighting for his place and there's healthy competition again.
"At the moment, everyone is looking positive and we all believe anything can happen with regard to this title race."