Three steps to AFC Champions League
Akbar wary of Global in ACL play-off tie despite beating the Philippine side earlier this year
Tampines Rovers beat Global FC of the Philippines 5-2 over two legs in the RHB Singapore Cup quarter-finals in June, but that result will mean nothing when the two sides meet again next month.
The Stags and Global are pitted against each other in the first of a three-step Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League qualifier.
The winners of the Jan 24 fixture in the Philippines will face the A-League's Brisbane Roar in stage two, with Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua standing between the winners and a spot in the ACL main draw.
Stags coach Akbar Nawas recalls the pair of victories over Global, but he believes both his Stags and Global will look distinctly different next month.
"Those results were a long time ago between two teams who will likely look very different come January," he told The New Paper yesterday.
The Stages have yet to confirm their final squad, but will certainly have to do without former Liverpool and Arsenal winger Jermaine Pennant, Canadian Jordan Webb, as well as forward Billy Mehmet who was responsible for two goals in the Singapore Cup wins over Global.
"We are still finalising our squad, but it will look very different from the one last season," said Akbar, who led Tampines to the quarter-finals of the AFC Cup earlier this year.
"As of now, we have five Singapore national players (Izwan Mahbud, Shakir Hamzah, Shahdan Sulaiman, Hafiz Abu Sujad and Yasir Hanapi) and that pool provides a good base for us to work on."
The AFC Cup is the second- tier regional tournament behind the ACL.
In January this year, Tampines fell 3-1 to Indian side Mohun Bagan in the ACL play-offs, before dropping into the AFC Cup group stages.
There are few who give Tampines any chance of fighting their way into the ACL main draw this season, but Akbar is hardly perturbed.
"We believe we can beat Global but, realistically speaking, it will be difficult to beat teams like Brisbane and Shanghai. That doesn't mean that we will go into those games - if we do get there - expecting defeat," he said.
"We will compete and, in any case, we're always looking to get a good result in any game that we play in."
Tampines will drop into the AFC Cup group stages if they fail to make it into the ACL, and the ACL and AFC Cup draw in Kuala Lumpur yesterday gave them a preview of who they will face should it come to that.
The Stags have a provisional spot in Group G, alongside Ceres of the Philippines, Malaysia's Felda United and Vietnamese side Ha Noi T&T, but Akbar is not looking that far, preferring to keep their focus on the drive for an ACL spot.
HOME, SPORE'S OTHER REP
Home United are Singapore's other representative in the tournament, but they will have to overcome Cambodian side Phnom Penh Crown in a two-legged play-off (Jan 30 in Cambodia and Feb 7 at home) for a spot in Group H.
Myanmar's Yadanarbon, Laotian side Lanexang United and Vietnam's Thang Quang Ninh await should Home cross the Cambodian hurdle.
Geylang International have been put on standby to step into Tampines' spot in Group G should the Stags qualify for the ACL.
The AFC Cup will be played according to its new format that will see countries compete according to their zones.
That means an Asean club champion will be crowned before progressing to battle for a spot in the AFC Cup final.