Clash with Yemen a must-win match, says Lions coach Tatsuma Yoshida
But Lions will have to play without Faris, Shawal and Shakir
The Lions have half their World Cup 2022 qualifiers left to play, but coach Tatsuma Yoshida believes tonight's clash with Yemen is already a "must-win" game.
Singapore are bottom of the group, but a win in Bahrain - Yemen have to host their home matches in a neutral venue due to an ongoing civil war - would get their qualification campaign back on track after successive defeats by Saudi Arabia (3-0) and Uzbekistan (3-1).
The Lions, who are world No. 159, were largely the better side when they drew 2-2 with the 141st-ranked Yemen at the National Stadium in the opening match of their qualifying campaign in September.
Yoshida told The New Paper: "We understand that it is a must-win (game). If we lose this game, we'll be in a very difficult situation...
"They were in Pot 4 and we were in Pot 5, so they are a level above us.
"We must respect them... Yemen have scored in all their matches except the 5-0 loss to Uzbekistan. Their three attackers have good individual skills."
The Japanese is hoping to end a three-match losing streak after defeats by Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Qatar.
Despite a positive performance in their 2-0 friendly loss to Asian champions Qatar last week, Yoshida said after the match that his side "must never get used to losing".
Should the Lions beat Yemen, they will set themselves up nicely for next March's clash with Palestine - whom the Lions beat 2-1 at the Jalan Besar Stadium in September .
Then comes a clash with Asian heavyweights Saudi Arabia (world No. 69), also in March, followed by the final fixture against the 85th-ranked Uzbekistan next June.
Group D remains finely poised with just four points separating bottom-placed Singapore from leaders Saudi Arabia, who reached last year's World Cup.
Said Lions skipper Hariss Harun: "It's still quite a tight group. You've seen that the teams can beat each other...
"We have four more games to play and I think the coming game is very important for us because we showed in the first game against Yemen that we can score goals and dominate...
"We caused them a lot of problems but took only two of our chances...
"We didn't do too well in the defensive aspect... We should have been more compact...
"We stand a very good chance, but we must be wary of them, they drew with Saudi Arabia (2-2)."
The flanks are key to the more expansive style that Yoshida is trying to implement.
More than any other position, the Japanese tactician has tried out a whole host of wingers in the last five matches - Faris Ramli, Shawal Anuar, Yasir Hanapi, Gabriel Quak, Hafiz Nor and Hazzuwan Halim.
Yoshida has also regularly used his substitutions to inject fresh impetus into the flanks.
When asked what he expects of his wingers, the 45-year-old said: "Firstly, they must play for the team. Next, they must show their ability and skills...
"If there is a one-versus-one situation, they must beat their man. That's what I demand from my wingers."
However, the Lions coach will be without wide men Faris (personal reasons) and Shawal (injury) and first-choice left back Shakir Hamzah (disciplinary reasons) at Al Muharraq Stadium tonight.
Said Yoshida: "Shakir, Faris and Shawal are always in our starting XI... It's a big loss.
"But I'm not worried. Hazzuwan was very impressive against Qatar."
Tonight's other match:
- Uzbekistan v Palestine (8pm)