Make your presence felt, fans
SINGAPORE v MALAYSIA
(Tonight, 7.55pm, MediaCorp okto, SingTel mio TV Ch 114 and StarHub TV Ch 208)
As the clock ticks down to kick-off tonight, the nerves and the tension will ratchet up among the Lions and their supporters because they know Malaysia have nothing to lose.
Singapore are the favourites and Dollah Salleh's men know the score: Win and they move into the semi-finals and knock out the defending champions of the AFF Suzuki Cup. Any other result and their arch-rivals will surely advance.
Many in the Malaysia camp will relish the prospect of humbling Bernd Stange's men on the grand new National Stadium stage, deadly rivals tend to want to rub it in the worst possible way.
Sometimes the influence of a full house turning up for the home side is exaggerated because with it also comes greater pressure on the players, who will not want to let down so many thousands in the stands.
But I believe the National Stadium needs to be full tonight, or close to its 55,000 capacity, for Singapore football's sake.
Singapore coach Stange and his men have urged the fans to come out and spur them on.
The Lions believe their fans can make the difference against Malaysia.
The Lions would have worn the favourites' tag quite comfortably if defender Baihakki Khaizan and Shahdan Sulaiman weren't missing from today's line-up.
Even playing at home, any team without two senior stars will be weakened.
Stange has a couple of big decisions to make on who to bring in for the missing duo, Malaysia will look to exploit any potential weaknesses in the Singapore formation and a 12th man will do very nicely for the home team in such circumstances.
To inspire and soothe, to intimidate the visitors and mess with their heads, and to rouse the home favourites when lungs and limbs suffer, and propel them to victory.
Singapore football fans have been a let-down so far.
The Lions have played at their new home twice already in important games, but the 32,148 turnout for the Thailand clash last Sunday was disappointing, while the 24,000 that turned up for the Myanmar game on Wednesday was embarrassing.
The Thailand support group was impressive and the Myanmar fans were magnificent, a consistent mass of singing, waving and clapping while around them the home crowd mostly just sat looking bemused.
Lions midfielder Hariss Harun, who stood out against the Thais, tried his best to energise the red-clad crowd with a performance for the ages against Myanmar.
He scored twice, the first a majestic half-volley, the second an acrobatic volley.
He tackled and won the ball back, he tackled and disrupted the opposition's play. He watched and read the game brilliantly to cut off the supply line for the Myanmar strikers.
A midfielder constantly on the move from box to box, he talked, encouraged and cajoled, and also scolded and screamed in anger at teammates for missteps and mistakes.
It was an all-round performance worthy of a packed house.
Singapore will need another strong display from their No. 14 tonight if their quest to retain their Asean crown is to stay alive.
As of yesterday, 85 per cent of the tickets have been sold and Hariss and the rest of the team will walk out to the biggest crowd of the Suzuki Cup tournament, on the biggest night for the National Stadium, so far.
This Causeway Derby is steeped in history, has thrown up numerous memorable moments, and conjured up heroes and villains.
Malaysia have struggled to come to grips with Singapore in recent years.
The Lions are record four-time winners of the Suzuki Cup.
Singapore captain Shahril Ishak, striker Khairul Amri, young and stylish central defender Safuwan Baharudin and Hariss have been part of teams that have stood tall against our Causeway rivals in Kuala Lumpur and at home.
All week long, Malaysia's coach Dollah says he's been looking forward to this meeting.
The National Stadium is about to host a Singapore v Malaysia clash.
It is a special derby, and I hope Singaporeans answer the call.
Turn up and the 12th man will inspire the Lions and, crucially, prove our football passion is still very much alive.
How to make the Lions' mask
It is do or die for the Lions tonight, as they face arch-rivals Malaysia at the National Stadium in their final AFF Suzuki Cup Group B tie.
Shahril Ishak and Co. will need to put in lion-hearted performances to make it to the semi-finals, and they will need lion-hearted fans roaring them on in the stands as well.
Malaysia coach Dollah Salleh had said they are not intimidated by the Kallang Roar, that he and his players are used to big crowds and hostile atmospheres in the Malaysian Super League.
It is time to prove him wrong tonight.
DON THE MASK
The New Paper's award-winning art department has produced a mask for Singapore fans to wear to the Causeway Derby.
Simply go to tnp.sg to download the PDF file, and print it out on a reasonably sturdy piece of white paper.
Cut along the dotted lines to get the outline of the lion head, and cut out the blue portion to be able to see through the mask.
Use a pencil or any sharp object to poke holes at the sides - as indicated - to attach the rubber bands, and you will have yourself a lion mask in less than five minutes to complement your get-up.
Alternatively, you can also paste the image on the right on a piece of cardboard for support, and follow the rest of the instructions to get your mask.
Imagine a National Stadium filled with 55,000 lions in the stands, roaring on the Lions on the pitch and proving Dollah wrong.
The New Paper will be at the National Stadium tonight. Will you?
15% of tickets left
About 85 per cent of tickets for tonight's AFF Suzuki Cup clash between Singapore and Malaysia have been sold, as of 6pm yesterday.
Concession tickets for all categories and tickets allocated for Malaysian fans are all sold out, said the Football Association of Singapore, who is advising fans who want to buy tickets to be quick as they are selling fast.
For tickets, visit www.sportshubtix.sg, call 6333 5000 or 3158 7888, visit the box office at the Singapore Indoor Stadium or any SingPost outlet.