The one they really want
DPMM match a must-win if Albirex want elusive S.League title, says coach
BRUNEI DPMM v ALBIREX NIIGATA
(Tomorrow, 8.15pm, Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium)
They may have won three trophies in the past year, including a second consecutive The New Paper League Cup just last Saturday.
However, it is the big one that Albirex Niigata are after when they return to action tomorrow.
The White Swans resume their Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League campaign away to defending champions Brunei DPMM looking to stay ahead of the chasing pack.
Their four-point lead could be reduced to one if second-placed Tampines Rovers defeat Geylang International tonight, which would make the match in Bandar Seri Begawan all the more crucial.
"For the players and myself, the S.League is the real title (we're after)," Albirex coach Naoki Naruo told The New Paper.
"Our final game of the season will be against Tampines and I believe they'll win all their games from now till then, which is why we can't afford to lose any of ours.
"We have to concentrate on each game and do our best in order not to succumb to Tampines' pressure, so this away game in Brunei will be very important."
Albirex may have raised a few eyebrows at the end of last season when they handed Naruo the reins after parting ways with Tatsuyuki Okuyama, who had led them to a Cup Double - the RHB Singapore Cup and TNP League Cup.
Nonetheless, it turned out to be an inspired choice as the Japanese outfit earned plaudits for their attractive brand of football this season, while a number of once-forgotten men are enjoying a new lease of life under his tutelage.
One such player is Kento Nagasaki, who struggled to get games when Okuyama was in charge.
This season he is a key member of the White Swans, with Naruo putting his creative abilities to better use in the heart of midfield.
DEFENCE IS KEY
Although the 26-year-old is better known for his work in the attacking third, he believes it will be at the other end of the pitch where tomorrow's clash will be decided.
"Good defence is one of the most important things for our team," he told TNP.
"If we can do the same again, we will be able to get a good result.
"It is not common to experience winning titles in our careers and, with the chance to win two more (S.League and RHB Singapore Cup) this year, we are very motivated.
"I believe this game against DPMM will be among the most important in the final round of matches and we will do our best to move one step closer to the title."
Naruo also thinks that keeping DPMM's dangerous attack at bay will be crucial after the lesson they learnt on their previous trip to Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium back in April, when they were genuinely challenged despite ultimately winning 2-1.
Naruo said: "We almost lost that game, so I'm expecting that it will be difficult for us once again.
"We will have to concentrate on not allowing them to score.
"We did manage to keep a clean sheet against them for the first time this season in the (League Cup) final and this gives us confidence."
ENCORE, PLEASE: Albirex Niigata (in white) will be hoping to get the better of Brunei DPMM (in black) again tomorrow after beating them 2-0 in The New Paper League Cup final last Saturday. TNP PHOTO: JEREMY LONG