Stags stay positive ahead of uphill task
Tampines coach Raab insists they are still eyeing win against Bali despite injuries to Webb and Megumi
Tampines Rovers will face an uphill task against Indonesia Liga 1 runners-up Bali United in the AFC Champions League's first preliminary round today.
Nevermind the new S.League rules - limiting senior local clubs to just two foreign players - that have hindered the Stags' continental ambitions, because tonight, they will be able to field none.
|BALI UNITED||TAMPINES ROVERS|
With Tampines' foreign wingers - Canadian Jordan Webb and Japanese Ryutaro Megumi - injured, Stags coach Juergen Raab finds his side even more handicapped as he leads them on an Asian expedition.
Raab will also be missing young forwards Taufik Suparno, who is unavailable due to national service, and Faizal Raffi, who dislocated his elbow during last Thursday's friendly against Geylang International.
Tampines look set to field an all-Singaporean side against the Indonesian giants.
However, Raab feels that despite the limitations, their target in Bali remains the same.
He said: "We may not have a lot of players with us, but we will still give all that we can to win this match.
"We cannot give excuses, because that is unfair to the other players, but with what we have at the moment, it is going to be tough."
The Stags, who began their pre-season last month, got off to a positive start with friendly wins over Malaysia Premier League side Johor Darul Ta'zim II (2-1) and Geylang (2-0) in the last two weeks.
Tampines have never advanced into the AFC Champions League tournament proper.
The last S.League team to do that was Singapore Armed Forces FC, now known as Warriors FC, in 2010.
Tampines were previously knocked out in the preliminary round of Asia's premier club tournament in 2014 by Hong Kong's South China (lost 2-1 after extra time), 2016 by India's Mohun Bagan (3-1) and 2017 by Philippines' Global Cebu (2-0).
In their way tonight are Bali, who are representing Indonesia in place of Liga 1 champions Bhayangkara, who failed to meet AFC's criteria.
However, Indonesia's replacement representatives boast a strong line-up on paper.
Filling the foreign slots are Brazilian defender Demerson, Dutch midfielders Kevin Brands and Nick van der Velden, and South Korean defender Ahn Byung Keon.
Among their Indonesian internationals are naturalised citizens Irfan Bachdim, Ilija Spasojevic and Stefano Lilipaly.
If Tampines overcome Bali, they will face Thai outfit Chiangrai United and then, Chinese giants Shanghai SIPG, for a place in the AFC Champions League group stage.
If the Stags fail to get past their first hurdle, they will join Persija Jakarta and Song Lam Nghe An and a Malaysian side in Group H of the AFC Cup.