They sit comfortably near the top of the Great Eastern-Yeo’s S.League table, while their opponents tonight, Home United, are two off the bottom of the nine-team standings by virtue of goal difference.
But V Sundramoorthy, coach of third-placed Tampines Rovers, is taking nothing for granted.
He feels it is way too early into the season for the league table to mean anything and is bracing himself for a chess match at the Bishan Stadium.
“The league is tough this year, you don’t take for granted that you can beat any team but, make no mistake about it, this is one of the big games that we will play this season,” he told The New Paper yesterday.
“Home are no pushovers, they are a good team with a good blend of young players and experienced ones.
“This will be a game where tactics play a very important role, how the teams line up, how strongly a team start, that kind of thing,” added the former LionsXII coach.
In their opening match of the season, Home dominated the game against Warriors FC in a show of pass-and-move football that was pleasing to the eye, only to concede a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw.
Similar to what the Warriors did, Hougang broke up Home’s attempts to build up play in the midfield area as the Cheetahs shocked the Protectors 1-0 in the second fixture.
Understandably, Sundram did not give away his game-plan, but he hinted at a close contest tonight.
“Home have got Faris Ramli, Sirina Camara, Ken Ilso and Song Ui Young, who is a good defensive midfielder who can also distribute the ball well.
“But they have to think about what our players can do, too,” he said.
With former Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant in their ranks and a host of the Republic’s best frontmen and defenders, Tampines demolished Bangladeshi champions Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi 4-0 in Group E of the AFC Cup last week.
The Stags have already experimented with various formations at this early stage of the season, with players deployed in different positions.
“We do have many options available to us, but the challenge is about finding the right mix to suit the game, based on analysis of how our opponents line up,” said Sundram, who has even deployed Singapore international Shahdan Sulaiman, a central midfielder, on the right of a flat four in the engine room.
Perhaps more importantly for tonight’s match, Sundram has Noh Rahman on his side, the defender who captained Home last season.
But 35-year-old Noh looked to play down his familiarity with his former employers.
“Maybe my knowledge of how Home play will help the team, but we all know what Home can do, the style of football they want to play.
“Personally, there isn’t any special significance to this game, it’s like any other match,” he said. “It’s unfair to pick out one player who will be dangerous because Home are a good hardworking side who pass the ball around.
“But if I really have to, it will be Ken and Sirina.”
Sundram wants his expensively assembled side to come up with the goods tonight.
“It is important that we win the game. Simply put, the team are healthy, we have no injuries and we have to take advantage of that and win,” said Sundram.
“There will be times in the season where we will have players out and might struggle, so we must take advantage when everyone is available.
“We just have to find the right mix against Home.”
This article was first published on March 3, 2016.
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