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 By Kenneth Tan

Warriors FC welcome back Baihakki, aim to tighten defence in S.League

Warriors FC goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Juma'at believes getting the right balance is key as the nine-time champions seek to end a two-match S.League losing streak against Balestier Khalsa in a televised clash at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night.

Starting the season well with four wins and two draws in their first six matches, Razif Onn's side lost their unbeaten record with a 4-2 defeat to Albirex Niigata (S), and subsequently suffered a shock 2-0 reverse to Hougang United.

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As much as the Warriors are exciting going forward and have scored the third most goals among the nine league teams, they have also have the second-worst defensive record, keeping just one clean sheet so far.

"It's important that we have a good balance for the team to move forward," Hyrulnizam told ESPN FC. "Going into this second round of fixtures, we are targeting to not just improve further in attacking, but also to do well defensively as a unit.

"Personally, I think that we just need to be more compact as a unit. For me as a goalkeeper, my role is to communicate better with the team and make sure that they are well organised. Hopefully we're going to concede less goals from now on."

The Warriors have dropped to fourth in the table, and are eight points adrift of leaders Albirex. But Hyrulnizam is optimistic of closing the gap and challenging for the title.

"Don't forget, the season's still early and there's still 16 games to go," the 30-year-old declared. "It's all about being consistent and collecting points, just like how we did in the first six games."

Warriors FC
Warriors FC will aim to avoid a third-straight S.League defeat on Friday night.

The Warriors are the heavy favourites to win this game, considering Balestier have suffered three straight defeats, collecting just six points from eight matches to lie third from bottom. However, Hyrulnizam is keen not to underestimate a team whose pride has been wounded.

"In this case, they have nothing to lose and we will surely be punished if we lose focus against such a team," he warned. "Coming into this second round, they may tweak their tactics, and change to a different approach, so we got to be careful."

Hafiz Osman misses out due to his indirect red card against Hougang, but the Warriors will welcome back experienced stalwart Baihakki Khaizan after serving a one-match suspension.

The sides met in the first week of the season, with Shaiful Esah scoring a late winner to ensure the Warriors triumphed 2-1 at Toa Payoh.

Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT

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