Sundram to stick with tried-and-tested system
Key wingbacks Shakir and Nazrul out, but national coach has experienced options
The switch from a traditional four-man defence to a back-three system has brought about a breath of fresh air, even if not a win, for the Lions as their wingbacks impressed against Turkmenistan last month.
But national football coach V Sundramoorthy has been dealt a double blow as his two first-choice wingbacks Shakir Hamzah (hip injury) and Nazrul Nazari (family commitment) have been ruled out of Thursday's friendly against Qatar and next Tuesday's crucial Asian Cup qualifier against Turkmenistan.
Singapore are bottom of Group E with two points from three games, but can leapfrog second-placed Turkmenistan, who have four points after last month's 1-1 draw against the Republic, with a win in Ashgabat.
After seeing his team put up arguably their most encouraging display of the year, Sundram is unlikely to rock the boat with another major formation overhaul.
"We will move more or less in the same direction," said Sundram, who turns 52 on Friday.
"Looking at our last two games, we played well and we will make some changes depending on the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents."
Shakir has impressed in recent matches, putting in Man-of-the-Match shifts in the 1-1 draws against Turkmenistan and Hong Kong, in which he scored his first international goal and won a match-levelling penalty respectively.
Nazrul had also been in good form, scoring in a closed-door 1-1 draw against Myanmar in June.
While Sundram has called up some prospects such as Ho Wai Loon, Rusyaidi Salime, Emmeric Ong and Shannon Stephen, they are still inexperienced at the international level with Ong the only capped player among them after his debut against Hong Kong.
It is highly likely Sundram will fall back on more experienced options such as Hafiz Sujad and Faritz Hameed or Madhu Mohana.
After returning from his stint with Thai League 2's BBCU, the left-footed Hafiz has scored three goals for Tampines Rovers.
On the right wing, the indefatigable Faritz has also had a fine season for Geylang International, while Madhu, who has played mostly in the heart of defence for the Stags, is capable of deputising on the right and poses an attacking threat with his long throws.
Sundram said: "This is the time for players to come in, show what they are capable of and seize the opportunity to shine for the national team.
"Qatar are good opponents even though it will be tough.
ASIAN CUP QUALIFICATION
"We will use this game to see which players can give us what we need, as well as to work on our shortcomings."
With Bahrain looking like runaway leaders with seven points, it looks like a three-way fight between Turkmenistan, Taiwan and Singapore for the runners-up spot to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup Finals in the United Arab Emirates.
As such, defeat could spell the end of Singapore's dreams of a historic qualification, a thought that Sundram is not entertaining.
"We are still in the race and our target is to win games," he said defiantly, despite overseeing just two victories in 17 "A" international matches across his 16 months at the helm.
"To beat Turkmenistan away would be great and we also fancy our chances in upcoming games against Bahrain and Taiwan."