Hougang United aim to sink star-studded Lion City Sailors
Hougang coach Teo says his players need to be brave and work as a team
Hougang United face a rampant Lion City Sailors in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) at the Jalan Besar Stadium tomorrow, but coach Clement Teo said the Cheetahs are eager to knock the wind out of their opponents' sails.
After a 3-3 draw with title rivals Tampines Rovers last Saturday, Aurelio Vidmar's charges hit form with a 5-0 win over Tanjong Pagar United on Wednesday, with all goals coming in the second half.
While acknowledging the Sailors as a "fantastic side with many good options", Teo felt that, with the right mentality and courage, an upset could well be on the cards.
"It will be a challenging game, but we won't make it easy for them," Teo told The New Paper.
"We need to be brave, but an all-out attacking approach will be suicidal as well. The players have to continue to do what we believe in, work as a team and help each other."
After making his highly anticipated debut in the second half against the Jaguars, SPL's first million-dollar signing Diego Lopes is expected to feature prominently in a star-studded Sailors line-up tomorrow, but Teo has demanded that his players rise to the occasion.
"Lopes has two legs and one brain, so do my players," the 54-year-old said.
"We have to have the right mindset and attitude, that I can be better than him. Lopes must be challenged and, for that, the local players must step up and that is the kind of players we want as we look towards the 2034 (World Cup) project."
The Sailors cannot afford to be complacent as the Cheetahs have assembled an offensive squad too. Their latest arrival Gilberto Fortunato will be joining Tomoyuki Doi, Shahril Ishak, Shahfiq Ghani, Shawal Anuar, Khairul Nizam, Sahil Suhaimi and Farhan Zulkifli.
Gilberto, 33, has wasted no time in making his presence felt, as the 1.86m forward opened his account in their 4-1 win over Geylang International on Wednesday.
Teo was pleased with how his acquisitions, all nine of them, have settled in well, but warned his troops that they have to fight to cement their place in the first XI.
"I'm a firm believer of a settled line-up, which means players who are not in the team have to fight and come back stronger to win their spot," he said.
"There is no special treatment."
Teo walked the talk by dropping vice-captain and goalkeeper Ridhuan Barudin against Geylang, following the 33-year-old's blunder in last Saturday's season-opening 3-1 loss to Albirex Niigata.
New signing Mukundan Maran, 22, has been the beneficiary of Teo's decision.
"Ridhuan made a costly mistake and he needs to learn the hard way," Teo said.
"He has been a fantastic professional and he understands that the team comes first. Also, it helps that playing Mukun frees up another senior player to start (due to the U-23 ruling)."
SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE
LION CITY SAILORS v HOUGANG UNITED
(Tomorrow, 5.30pm, StarHub TV Ch 202 & 1 Play Sports Facebook)
OTHER WEEKEND FIXTURES
- Geylang Int'l v Young Lions
- Albirex Niigata v Balestier Khalsa
- Tampines Rovers v Tg Pagar United
(All games at 5.30pm. Live on 1 Play Sports' Facebook page)