Slim chance of qualifying, but Tampines out for a big win
Slim chance of semi-final spot, but Sundram wants a win to boost S.League challenge
WARRIORS v TAMPINES
(Tonight, 8.30pm, Woodlands Stadium)
The two giants of Singapore football have some of the most experienced and skilful players in the S.League, led by two of the top coaches in the local game.
But Tampines Rovers and Warriors FC find themselves in a strange position, when they lock horns in The New Paper League Cup Group B clash at the Woodlands Stadium tonight.
The Warriors are already eliminated from the tournament, while Tampines will almost certainly see their interest in the competition end at the final whistle.
To qualify for the semi-finals, Tampines need a five-goal victory over their long-time rivals, while S.League leaders and reigning champions Warriors FC have nothing to play for after suffering a 4-0 defeat by Balestier in their opening Group B match last week.
Only the group winners advance, and Balestier, who lead the three-team group with four points, are all but through to the last four.
But Stags coach V Sundramoorthy is not giving up the fight, yet.
"It won't be easy, but it can be done," he told The New Paper yesterday. "We will adopt one simple mind-set when we go out and play against the Warriors - attack and get the result we need to progress.
"Yes, the Warriors have zero chance of making the semi-finals, but the fact that they are top of the S.League shows they are a good side, and I think that 4-0 loss to Balestier was a freak result."
Sundram will have a fully fit side at his disposal, boosted by the return of midfielder Roberto Alviz from suspension.
Even if they fail to progress to the semis, Sundram hopes to see improvement on the pitch as the Stags prepare for the second half of the league campaign.
Five-time champions Tampines are a disappointing fifth in the S.League standings, 10 points behind the Warriors.
Victory for the Stags in tonight's cup tie will at least set them up for a strong second half of the season.
"We've been working very hard in training during the one-month break and the boys are fit and raring to go," Sundram said.
"Qualifying for the semis will be a boost, but we also want to gain momentum (heading into) the second half of our season.
"We want to put past results behind us and give it our best."
For Warriors coach Alex Weaver, tonight's match will be all about making amends.
Still smarting after the collapse against Balestier, the Englishman said: "The motivation for us is to get things right.
"The Balestier match was a huge disappointment, because the preparations and training sessions for that game were all going very well. But they just didn't perform on the night.
"We might be table-toppers in the league, but that doesn't matter in the cup.
"We're not thinking of the league at all; we focus on things one at a time."
Weaver is also wiser from experience. During last year's edition, having already qualified for the quarter finals, he fielded a team largely comprising reserves in the final group game against Geylang.
The Warriors lost that match 4-0, and Weaver's decision drew much criticism from the rest of the league.
"Like I said, we have things to get right; we have standards to maintain," said Weaver.
"This is still a very important game for the players, so we're going to be at full strength."
In tonight's other match, Home United take on Sporting Westlake at the Bishan Stadium in a Group C affair.
With Albirex already top of that group, both teams have no chance of advancing to the semi-finals.