Geylang International aim to spoil Albirex Niigata (S) victory party
Geylang International are looking to spoil the title-winning party of Albirex Niigata (S) as the sides face off on Friday to begin the final week of the 2017 S.League season.
Albirex will be presented with the trophy after the game. But the Eagles still need a point to hold off nearest challengers Warriors FC, and finish in the top four for the first time in 14 years.
Fourth and fifth are the only positions yet to be decided. Tampines Rovers and Home United will be Singapore's representatives in the 2018 AFC competitions after sealing second and third place, while Garena Young Lions are already consigned to finish last for a second successive season.
Despite not needing a win to achieve their aspirations, Geylang coach Noor Ali is not looking to sit back against the White Swans, who are one victory away from repeating last season's quadruple trophy feat.
The champions are one point away from hitting their target of 60 points, with top scorer Tsubasa Sano (23 goals) still harbouring thoughts of overhauling Home's Stipe Plazibat (25 goals) for the Golden Boot.
Kazuaki Yoshinaga's side have come out on top in all three encounters this season, with 1-0 and 5-0 league victories sandwiching a 4-0 win in the League Cup semifinals.
"We are going out there to get a result, not to defend," Noor Ali told The New Paper. "You can't go out and try to play safe against Albirex. You need a 90-minute game plan.
"Albirex tend to kill teams off in the first half hour of the game, then just keep possession for the rest of the match. So, we're not going to let them do that to us -- we're not going to sit back and invite trouble this time.
"I don't think Albirex will play a weakened team even though they've already won the league. I'm sure they want to finish on a high, and lift the trophy with a win.
"Also Sano is aiming to get the top-scorer award, so he will need to go all out... I'm sure his teammates will try to set him up."
Regardless of Friday night's result, Noor Ali is satisfied with the progress of the Eagles since he took over from Hasrin Jailani in mid-season.
The former Singapore international has won nine out of 17 games and managed to blood in promising Prime League players like Ifwat Ismail and Noor Ariff in the process.
"We've achieved some good results and have also managed to develop some of the younger boys by giving them game time in the S.League," the 42-year-old said.
"Finishing above Warriors and Hougang United -- teams that have a better squad than we do -- will be a good achievement for the boys."
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT