Tampines Rovers set on snapping 24-match winning streak of Albirex
Tampines Rovers will look to end the incredible run of S.League champions Albirex Niigata (S) when the sides face off in the final of three match ups in 10 days at Jurong East Stadium on Saturday night.
Albirex have won nine games in a row in all competitions, but it is a streak of 24 consecutive home victories at their home ground in Singapore's west.
Tampines were the last team to come away from Jurong East Stadium with anything other than a defeat after a 1-0 S.League victory in November 2015.
The two teams met earlier this month in the Singapore Cup quarterfinals, with Albirex progressing to the last four 7-1 on aggregate.
The White Swans pulled off a stunning 5-1 win at Our Tampines Hub before completing the job with a 2-0 victory at home.
The Singapore Cup exit meant that Tampines' only chance of silverware this season lies in the S.League.
They had previously fallen in the League Cup group stages after three straight losses.
This upcoming game is a crucial six-pointer for Jurgen Raab's outfit as they trail leaders and defending champions Albirex by nine points, albeit with two games in hand.
South Korean midfielder Son Yong-Chan believes the team have put the Singapore Cup exit behind them as they chase their first S.League title since 2013.
"The two games gives a good learning opportunity for everybody in the team," the 26-year-old told the official S.League website. "It's a chance for every player to re-evaluate their performance, see where they didn't do so well and improve on it.
"The team feels we lost a chance for AFC Cup [qualification] next year. Definitely, everyone in the team will work harder and try to focus more with the remaining league games."
In addition to the two Singapore Cup defeats, Tampines have also lost twice to Kazuaki Yoshinaga's side in 2017. They fell 2-1 in the Community Shield at National Stadium in February, and 4-1 at their old den in Jurong West three months later.
However, Son believes they have what it takes to upset the odds.
"The six-day break [after the quarter-final second leg defeat] afforded everyone good rest, as well as quality time with family and friends," he said.
"Both of which are very important in taking care of the mind and body. I believe it gave the team renewed energy for the upcoming games and all of us in Tampines to be better prepared.
"No one knows what will happen but I am sure that everyone will give their best during the game.
"For me, the best help I can give to the team is to ensure that I'm healthy, fit, and free of injuries."
After the Balestier Khalsa-Brunei DPMM clash next Monday, the S.League will take a two-week international break before resuming in the second week of September.
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT