Warriors FC chase maiden League Cup glory, wary of Brunei DPMM
Warriors FC and Geylang International will be hoping to make it an all-Singapore final in the League Cup by winning Tuesday night's semifinals.
Three-time winners Brunei DPMM take on Warriors at Jalan Besar Stadium while cup holders Albirex Niigata (S) host Geylang International at Jurong East.
Warriors and Geylang will be looking to protect local pride by preventing another all-foreign final like last season.
In 2016, Albirex defeated DPMM 2-0 to lift the trophy for a third time -- equalling the Wasps' record of victories achieved in 2009, 2012 and 2014. In fact, no local side have won the League Cup since Balestier Khalsa did so in 2013.
The Warriors are aiming to lift the League Cup for the first time in their history. They are wary of a DPMM side coming into form, and who have come out on top in both head-to-head encounters this season.
Steve Kean's outfit won twice and drew once to qualify as Group B winners, scoring 11 goals in the process. That's a stark contrast to their S.League campaign where they are currently second-from-bottom after just one win and one draw in 11 matches.
"I wouldn't say we're worried, it's more of being wary," Warriors defender Emmeric Ong told sleague.com. "They've been playing well in the League Cup, which we're obviously aware of.
"The first game which we won [5-3 at Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium in mid-April] was very open but they looked like a very different team when we beat them [1-0 at Choa Chu Kang in early July]. So it'll definitely be a very close affair again.
"Warriors have always been a club challenging for honours and the League Cup is of no exception. We did our job of qualifying for the semifinals so now we have to go one step further and be in the final. That will be great for our team."
Elsewhere, Geylang are looking to go one step further after emerging winners of the Plate competition last season. But they face the gargantuan task of taking down Albirex, the winners of the last two editions.
The White Swans from Japan have lost just twice in 16 games in all competitions this season. They did not concede any goals en route to finishing top of the tough Group A.
While admitting his team are 'underdogs' going into this clash, Geylang defender Al-Qaasimy Rahman refuses to rule out a possible upset.
"Everyone knows Albirex is a tough team to play against," said the former Singapore Under-23 captain. "But if we were to be thrown to play against any other team for the semifinals, it'll be just as tough.
"That said, the team is full of confidence with the positive results recently and we are determined to keep this run going. Even before the start of the League Cup campaign, we already had our sights on making the final. With the hard work we've put in as well as the spirit in the team, it isn't a surprise that we've reached the semifinals."
The winners of both ties will face off in the final at Jalan Besar Stadium this Friday, July 21 as they vie for the SGD$20,000 prizemoney for finishing champions.
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT