Skipper Farra has faith in Stags' reserves
Skipper Farra backs young reserves to shine against fancied Japanese outfit
ALBIREX NIIGATA v TAMPINES ROVERS
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Jurong East Stadium)
Tampines Rovers stalwart Mustafic Fahrudin has enjoyed a stellar career in local football.
He has five Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League winners' medals on display at home (2005, 2006, 2011, 2012 and 2013).
There have been two wins, in the RHB Singapore Cup - in 2005 and 2006.
He was also a key figure in the national teams that lifted the regional AFF Suzuki Cup in 2007 and 2012.
But the 35-year-old has never lifted The New Paper League Cup.
Ahead of his side's semi-final tonight against the tournament's defending champions Albirex Niigata, Farra, as he is popularly known, is gunning to break that duck.
"This is a good opportunity for us," he said.
"We are already in the semi-final. Now, we just need the extra push."
He is well aware the Stags walk out onto the Jurong East Stadium pitch tonight as heavy underdogs.
Albirex have been leading the way this season and the Japanese club lead the S.League with eight games left.
The Stags also go into the game without seven national players, who are on duty with the Lions, who take on Cambodia in Phnom Penh on Thursday.
To make matters worse, big-name signing Jermaine Pennant is struggling with an ankle injury, and will likely miss the game, while midfield spark Shahdan Sulaiman (leg fracture) and striker Sufian Anuar (hamstring) are definitely out.
But Farra is unperturbed.
"Yes, it's a big challenge," he admitted. "But we go into this game without any pressure because we are missing more than half our team.
"Also, the young players who have come in have done really well.
"I like the way these young guys train, their ideas, their touches, their bravery... I have a good feeling."
Stags striker Billy Mehmet agreed.
"To be honest, when this competition started, I wasn't expecting too much," said the 31-year-old English targetman.
"But all that went away after 45 minutes in our first game, when we were leading (Hougang United) 4-0!
"I knew what our (other) players could do, and now even the young boys coming in have stepped up to the plate.
"I was surprised, just like everyone else... But now we're in the semi-finals, I won't be surprised if we go all the way."
Tampines edged the last meeting between the two teams 1-0, exactly 33 days ago in an S.League meeting, but that was with a full complement of players.
Albirex coach Naoki Naruo pointed to Mehmet as the Stags' dangerman, and White Swans defender Kento Fujihara insisted the Japanese side would not underestimate their opponents.
"Tampines still have some experienced players and their technique is good," said the 24-year-old centre back.
"It's very difficult to deprive them of the ball. All our players need to work extra hard.
"The result (defeat last month) didn't affect me mentally... and we are not out for revenge.
"But we know tomorrow is a very important game, so we will do our best with a strong spirit."
Tampines coach Akbar Nawas was in bullish mood.
"It will definitely be tough," he said.
"We have to give Albirex due respect. But that's it.
"We have a semi-final to play, and it can go either way."
Now we’re in the semifinals, I won’t be surprised if we go all the way.
— Tampines’ Billy Mehmet