Veteran defender Sairol eyes another high with Brunei DPMM
Hosts will count on dynamic wingback to help sink the champions
BRUNEI DPMM v WARRIORS FC
(Tonight, 8.15pm, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium)
At 32, Sairol Sahari is no stranger to the highs and lows of professional football.
He was part of the Brunei DPMM side that won three Singapore League Cups (2009, 2012, 2014) and was also a key figure for the newly-promoted team that finished third in the Malaysian Super League in the 2006/07 season.
He tasted bitter disappointment last year, when DPMM lost the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League title race to Warriors FC on the final day, after spending most of the season on top.
This year, both teams are once again legitimate contenders for the crown, along with current leaders Albirex Niigata.
It has made tonight's clash at the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium between the hosts and the reigning champions all the more enthralling, especially when a win for either side would see them go top of the standings.
Left wingback Sairol knows the significance of the game, but he believes it is imperative his side approach it like any other match.
"Personally, I don't think too much about who we're playing against," he told The New Paper.
"I just focus on my game, my team and what coach (Steve Kean) wants us to do.
"The confidence among the players is getting better each day and we always aim to play as a team and encourage one another.
"We've been training really hard and I just hope our hard work pays off, starting with three points against Warriors."
With two games in hand over Albirex and just a three-point deficit to make up, DPMM's destiny remains in their own hands.
"The pressure is there, but coach reminds us not to think about what's going on elsewhere, and to just play our own game," the Brunei international explained.
"We just have to take it match by match and what I've realised is that every time we've lost a game, the other teams have also dropped points.
"So what we must focus on is making the most of our opportunities every time they arise."
He is now a veteran but Sairol, who has been at DPMM since 2005, has shown no signs of slowing down, displaying excellent form this season.
He already has plenty to be proud of when he does eventually call time on his career, although he admits there are still a couple of targets still left.
"Winning the S.League is one of my dreams, definitely," he said.
"I also want to win the RHB Singapore Cup. I've won the League Cup but each competition is different, and I want to know what it feels like to be a champion of both the S.League and the Singapore Cup.
"We came so close to winning the league last year and I'm hoping we can avoid the same mistakes this year."
Weaver: Time to bounce back
If they are to win silverware in 2015, Warriors FC are going to have to bag the big one again and defend their Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League crown.
Having failed to challenge for The New Paper League Cup, the Warriors were then booted out of the RHB Singapore Cup quarter-finals by arch-rivals Home United last Friday.
By coach Alex Weaver's own admission, the Warriors now have to focus all their attention on retaining the league title.
They are currently second, a point behind leaders Albirex, but have a game in hand.
They can go top tonight with victory over Brunei DPMM at the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium.
Although his charges have won just one of their last six games in all competitions, Weaver insisted yesterday they can rectify their poor run tonight.
"Absolutely," he replied confidently, when asked if he was confident his men could bounce back from their Singapore Cup exit in Bandar Seri Begawan.
"Last season, as well as this season, the players have proven time and again that, on our day, we can compete against anybody in the league.
"We've also proven that we can bounce back after suffering setbacks and I've got every faith in the players that they can do that in Brunei."
Further adding to Weaver's optimism is the fact that the Warriors have an excellent away record against DPMM, having emerged victorious in three of their last four trips to the Brunei capital, although Steve Kean's men did claim the spoils earlier this season, recording a 3-1 win in a bad-tempered clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium which saw both sides finish with 10 men.
The Englishman said: "We actually have a good record in Brunei and we'll head into the game with that in mind.
"We do like going to Brunei… it's always a good football atmosphere and the players have been talking about it a lot recently.
"They're really up for it so it should be a really good game."
Weaver does have a couple of headaches over his starting line-up as question marks remain over the fitness of forwards Nicolas Velez and Fazrul Nawaz.
Tonight's game will be Velez's last for the club before he joins Indian Super League outfit NorthEast United, although he is almost certain to feature off the bench given he has only made one start in six matches.
Meanwhile, Fazrul limped off in last Friday's Singapore Cup quarter-final, second-leg match against Home with a hamstring complaint and is 50-50.
"Fazrul had a bit of a hamstring problem, which was caused by fatigue," Weaver revealed.
"It's not too bad, but we took him off as a precaution… hopefully he'll have rested enough and will be back, but we'll have to wait and see.
"With regard to Nico (Velez), we've been cautious with the amount of game time he's getting given his recent injury.
"We knew he would be ready to play 45 minutes (against Home) and we want to get him into this game, although it is unlikely he will be starting."
Last season, as well as this season, the players have proven time and again that, on our day, we can compete against anybody in the league.
— Warriors FC coach Alex Weaver
- Harimau Muda v Hougang United (8pm, Hang Jebat Stadium, Malacca)
- Albirex Niigata v Home United (7.30pm, Jurong East Stadium)
- Geylang International v Courts Young Lions (7.30pm, Bedok Stadium)
- Tampines Rovers v Balestier Khalsa (7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium, LIVE on Singtel TV Ch 111)
- Warriors FC v Harimau Muda (7.30pm, Choa Chu Kang Stadium)
- Brunei DPMM v Courts Young Lions (8.15pm, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium, Bandar Seri Begawan)