DPMM want Cup win to salvage season
DPMM coach Kean wants a record fourth triumph to salvage average season
BRUNEI DPMM v ALBIREX NIIGATA
(Tonight, 7.45pm, StarHub TV Ch 112/205 & 76.25MHz)
It has been a trying year for Brunei DPMM.
But, tonight, they can go some way towards salvaging their season.
Their best, and perhaps only chance of silverware will come when they take on Albirex Niigata in The New Paper League Cup final at Jalan Besar Stadium.
The defending Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League champions have endured a troubled campaign.
A massive 16-point gap stands between them and league leaders Albirex.
With eight matches left to play, it now looks virtually impossible to retain their title.
The Bruneian outfit are also out of the RHB Singapore Cup, meaning tonight's match may represent their only hope of not finishing the season empty-handed.
All this while, DPMM coach Steve Kean (left) has insisted that they will not give up on their title defence until it is mathematically impossible, although he does admit victory at Jalan Besar Stadium tonight could prove crucial on many levels.
"That's the great thing about football," he told The New Paper yesterday. "You can have a bad spell, but there will always be another game around the corner.
"We've still got this competition to play for and, hopefully, we can win the final and then go on to win most, if not all, of our games in the league.
"That would also be great for our confidence going into next season.
DPMM are the most successful side in the League Cup.
Captain Rosmin Kamis, who played a part in the club's three previous triumphs in 2009, 2012 and 2014, is well aware of the task at hand, given Albirex have both the best attacking and defensive record in the S.League.
But the 35-year-old is also confident of an upset if they stick to their plan.
He said: "Including this season, we've reached the League Cup final five times and we've won three of those.
"I don't think there's any extra pressure on us… the important thing is just to win it.
"Everybody is well prepared and looking sharp and we're looking forward to the final.
"Albirex are a good team but, if we play to the coach's instructions, we know we have every chance to score and then it's down to how well we defend."
Most teams have struggled to cope with Albirex's quick-passing style of football this season, including DPMM.
Kean's men have lost both their meetings against the Japanese outfit, but the DPMM coach feels his side have improved significantly since.
"In this competition, we've shown we're a bit more stubborn now in not giving chances to our opposition," said the Scot.
"It's no secret that Albirex like to play from the back so we'll be trying to engage them high up the pitch.
"If we can win the ball, then we're immediately on the attack.
"Certainly, if we do get pinned back, we've Rafa (Ramazotti) to hold the ball up and players like Adi Said and Paulo Sergio who have plenty of pace, so we're also very dangerous on the break.
"There's no point going all the way to the final and not win it because no one remembers the losing finalists.
"My final message to the boys would be to go out there and become the first team to win it four times."
Sergio's return boosts DPMM's hopes
Three weeks ago, Paulo Sergio watched on as his Portuguese compatriots reached the pinnacle of European football with their Euro 2016 triumph.
The man who lifted the trophy at the Stade de France, Cristiano Ronaldo, was his former team-mate in the youth team of Sporting Lisbon.
Tonight, Sergio will have his own shot at glory when his side Brunei DPMM take on Albirex Niigata in The New Paper League Cup final at Jalan Besar Stadium.
The 32-year-old forward is raring to go, having watched the last two matches from the sidelines because of a two-match suspension.
He told The New Paper yesterday: "The most important thing was that, even without me, my teammates got the job done with some amazing displays.
"Now that I'm back for the final, I just want to help the team win.
"We know that this final is most important for us because our situation in the league this season has been complicated, but now, we have a big chance to win something."
DPMM coach Steve Kean welcomes the return of an influential player who has scored four goals in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League and two in the TNP League Cup this season.
He said: "Obviously, he's massive for us. He's certainly one of the best players in the league.
"It's not only the stuff on the ball when he gets you further up the pitch and in behind defences, but he's tireless off the ball as well.
"He sets the tone for everyone else in terms of work ethic when the opposition have the ball.
"When we defend from the front, he's just closing down every opponent and he has that real enthusiasm to win a game."
But DPMM will have their work cut out for them against the White Swans, who have been dominant in the league this season.
However, Sergio believes his team will also give the opposition a thing or two to worry about.
He said: "Albirex have a really good team, but it's a final and you want to play for a win.
"We respect them because they have quality, but we know that we do as well.
"Up front, we know how strong we are and we can definitely pose them some problems.
"Earlier in the season (a 2-1 loss in April), we played very well against them at home and didn't deserve to lose, so we'll try to keep that same attitude and quality.
"Sure, we'll need to beware of them, but they'll need to beware of us too."
- GABRIEL TAN
1 Aerial superiority
In striker Rafael Ramazotti and centre back Brian McLean, DPMM have two genuine threats from set-pieces, especially given Albirex have not been the most convincing at defending high balls this year.
2 Newfound defensive stability
DPMM may have leaked goals in the S.League this season, but they have improved in that area and have conceded only once, through a penalty, in the League Cup.
3 League Cup pedigree
Having won the League Cup three times in their five previous seasons in Singapore football, DPMM know what it takes to win the tournament and the experience will be crucial.
1 Poor record against Albirex
DPMM just have not been able to come up with the answers in recent clashes between the two sides, losing three and drawing one in their past four meetings.
2 Key man not at his best
He has not been playing badly but playmaker Azwan Ali is way below his usual creative best, and was even benched in the semi-final win over Home United.
3 Stamina in question
With the average age of their starting 11 at 29 years compared to Albirex's 25, DPMM could struggle to keep up with their opponents' quick-passing brand of football.
- GABRIEL TAN