Fahrudin: Our biggest game
Tampines skipper wants a win over Albirex to spark title charge
It's squeaky bum time for Tampines Rovers.
The Stags, touted as hot favourites for the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League title before the season began, are lying fifth in the 10-team league, seven points behind leaders Brunei DPMM.
With just 11 matches to go, a loss tonight to second-placed Albirex could prove to be the knockout blow for V Sundramoorthy's men.
Tampines skipper Mustafic Fahrudin knows full well the importance of the clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
"It's the biggest game of the season for us," said the 34-year-old, whose team have one to two games in hand over the sides above them.
"If we can get three points, it'll make the title race wide open until the very end.
"After the Albirex game, we have good fixtures, Harimau Muda once and Courts Young Lions twice in the next four matches, and these are games you need to take three points from if you want to win the league."
Fahrudin (left) pointed to the fact that tonight's match will kick off a run of five games in 17 days for Tampines, and he believes that his team are up to the task.
"That's 15 points (up for grabs) in about two weeks," he said.
"A lot of teams will also be playing a match every three or four days. This is the time when having a big, strong squad is important and I still feel we have the best squad in the league.
"It's painful for me, as someone who has played 12 years with Tampines, to see certain clubs above us on the table."
JALAN BESAR HOODOO
If Tampines are to beat Albirex, however, it means they have to overcome a Jalan Besar Stadium hoodoo.
They have not won in four S.League games at the venue, losing thrice, and Fahrudin was at a loss to explain his team's torrid record at the venue.
"This year, we haven't beaten anyone there," he said.
"I don't like to play there, none of us do. But what can we do? We just have to push to the maximum and try to break our bad run there."
As his glittering career begins to wind down, Fahrudin said he is settling well into a new role as a centre back.
He made his name as a tenacious midfield enforcer, helping Singapore to three AFF Suzuki Cup titles in 2004, 2007 and 2012.
"I feel okay, especially since this season, coach has put me in the back four, where it is more about reading and positioning," said Fahrudin.
"I don't get exhausted like when I play midfield. I never set myself a target of how many more years to play. I will just see how long I can go."
Sundram hailed his captain's influence in a defence which has conceded just 14 goals in 16 games - the second best defensive record in the league.
"He's done great at the back," said the Dazzler.
"He reads the game well and organises the defence. His leadership is important to us."