Balestier and Albirex confident of catching leaders DPMM
Balestier and Albirex full of fighting talk, believe race for title is not a foregone conclusion
BALESTIER KHALSA v ALBIREX NIIGATA
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Toa Payoh Stadium)
Balestier Khalsa and Albirex Niigata have each won just one of their last four Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League matches.
But both clubs are not about to throw in the towel for this year's title race.
Balestier are second, five points behind leaders Brunei DPMM having played a game more, while Albirex are seven points behind the Bruneian side having played a game less.
Ahead of their clash at Toa Payoh Stadium tonight, the head coaches of both teams bullishly declared their belief that DPMM could be caught.
Said Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic: "Look at (DPMM's) Singapore Cup semi-final, first-leg match.
"They struggled against Home United, who were unlucky to lose 3-2.
"Home should have won that game."
Albirex coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama also bristled when asked if he subscribed to general belief DPMM were too far to be caught, with just seven matches to go.
"I haven't heard them (opinions that DPMM are champions-elect) yet," said the former J-League midfielder. "I don't think any (other) club think the gap in points is too big to close up."
Okuyama added that he was not concerned with his side drawing their last three league matches against DPMM (0-0), Home (0-0) and Hougang United (1-1).
"We created many chances in those matches, but we were not able to score many goals," said the 39-year-old. "We have to improve in front of goal.
"Anyway, our motivation is not to keep the pressure on other teams.
"It is more important each player knows what he should do.
"Every remaining game is important for us.
"The situation is very clear for us; we just do our best to win our remaining games."
Kraljevic, meanwhile, is hopeful his players' hunger for success will give the team a kick till the end of the season.
"I asked my guys the other day, and nobody in the squad has won the S.League title before," said the German-born Croat with a chuckle.
"One player said he won the Under-12 youth league or something.
"So the whole team are hungry to win, and there's a good atmosphere around the team.
"Right now, everything is open.
"We want to put ourselves in a position where, coming into the last game of the season (on Nov 21) in Brunei, we still have a chance at the title."