Raring to go
It's not glamorous Juventus, but clash with Young Lions is serious business for Pejic
WARRIORS FC v COURTS YOUNG LIONS
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Choa Chu Kang Stadium)
Just four days ago, Warriors FC forward Miroslav Pejic was locking horns with names such as Giorgio Chiellini and Patrice Evra as part of the Singapore Selection side that lost 5-0 to Italian giants Juventus at the new National Stadium.
Tonight, it will be a completely different proposition for him.
Pejic returns to club duty for the Warriors, who entertain second-from-bottom Courts Young Lions in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League.
He faced some of the world's top players such as Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba, and some may say tonight's encounter will be a "come down" for the striker.
But the Croat insisted yesterday that there will be no lack of motivation, even if the stage is the Choa Chu Kang Stadium and not the 55,000-capacity arena at the Singapore Sports Hub.
"To be honest, before training today, I was still thinking about the Juventus game," he told The New Paper.
"I still get goosebumps thinking about stepping onto the same pitch as those players, playing at the new stadium in front of all those fans.
"Then I regained focus and reminded myself that there's a game against the Young Lions, with three points at stake as we are chasing the league title.
"Juventus are Juventus and the Young Lions are the Young Lions but, in every game, you find motivation and I'll be giving it 100 per cent.
"The Young Lions have some top players like Sahil (Suhaimi) and other talented youngsters, so I'm very excited to be back with my Warriors teammates, fighting for the league and for our fans."
In his first year with the Warriors, Pejic has been one of the stars, having netted 12 goals in all competition while laying on countless more for his teammates.
His partnership with Argentine forward Nicholas Velez has been a huge factor behind the team's title challenge.
The Warriors, who finished seventh last year, are currently in fifth spot in the standings, five points behind league leaders DPMM FC with three games left before the half-round of matches that is a unique feature of the S.League.
Pejic, 28, insists it is not just down to Velez or him, but the contribution of the whole team that has helped the Warriors improve.
"The biggest secret for Nico (Velez) and I is that we understand each other on the pitch," he explained.
"I think the Argentine and Croatian ways of playing the game are quite similar and we really appreciate the same kind of football.
"But we need the other players for us to do what we do best - we are a team.
"The whole squad have the same purpose and it's easier to give 100 per cent when you play with such team spirit.
"And, when everyone in the squad gives 100 per cent, it goes a long way in helping us achieve great things."
Coach Alex Weaver, who took over midway through last season and has masterminded the club's resurgence, believes winning the title is a realistic target.
"Of course, the title race is still very much alive," he said.
"If we do well in the next three matches, it's definitely game on.
"After that, we'll be playing against the top-six teams and there are points to be taken off one another, so there's still plenty to play for."
Weaver is well aware they cannot afford to slip up tonight.
"The game against the Young Lions is simply one that we have to win," the Englishman added.
"We approach every game the same, whether we play Tampines Rovers or the Young Lions. It's a game we need to win and the positive thing is that the players know what's at stake and are extremely motivated."
The writer is a freelancer.