19th March, 2014
Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore
S-League champions are enduring a very difficult period in AFC Cup 2014 Group Stages. They have suffered two big defeats already and their future depends on their rivals Pune FC at the moments. The Red Lizards on the other hand have two draws under their belt, and are hoping to register their first win in AFC Cup 2014 sooner rather than later. As the duo lock horns with one another, it presents a golden opportunity for one of them to add more insult to others injury. Both teams badly need a victory and the chances of progression beyond group stages is realistically possible for only one of them.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Tampines Rovers FC
Tampines Rovers are in very bad shape at the moment with two heavy defeats in their AFC Cup 2014 fixtures so far. If the 5 goal drubbing they suffered at home against Kitchee FC was a disaster, then the newcomers Nay Pyi Taw FC surprised them with a 3-1 win at Myanmar. Conceding 8 goals in their 2 matches has thrown plenty of light on their fragile defence. Tampines Rovers needs a massive step up in their defensive organization in-order to change their fortunes in AFC Cup 2014.
Salim Moin coached Singapore Champions are a superior force in the S-League with hat-trick of titles under their belt. The team is tactically flexible. Tampines Rovers usually adopts a 3-5-2 formation for S-League matches. Even though it is quite successful in national league, they were seen in a 4-4-2 formation in continental stage. That move hasn’t clicked so far, as the team succumbed to defeats against South China, Kitchee and Nay Pyi Taw.
The match against Pune FC will be their 3rd match within 7 days. So fatigue is expected to play a huge role in Tampines Rovers’ performance on Wednessday. In their last game they notched up a comfortable 3-0 victory and there is a likelihood that they may retain the same players for this crucial encounter.
Captain Fahrudin Mustaphic, Japanese defenders Yamashita Kinihiro and Norihiro Kawakami will be responsible for keeping the Pune FC attacks at bay. Another interesting player in their side is 43-year-old Alesander Duric whose performances defies his age. Playmaker Luis Closa and Striker Miljan Mrdakovic are firing in all cylinders in the domestic front and will be expected to trouble the Pune FC defence in Singapore.
Expected Line-up (4-4-2): Hyrulnizam Jumat; Fahrudin Mutaphic, Jufri Taha, Yamashita Kunihiro, Norihiro Kawakami, Shaiful Esah, Shahdan Sulaiman, Alesander Duric, Jamil Ali, Luis Closa, Miljan Mrdakovic.
The match is played on artificial turf which won’t be an ideal stage for Pune FC who usually plies there trade on natural surfaces. Puneikars have to cope up with the uneven bounce and the wet surface if the conditions are to be considered. On the footballing front, medio Dhanpal Ganeshan is suspended and he is likely to make way for Pune FC’s second half hero striker Mirjan Pavlovic. Right back Othallo Tabia was called up for the match in Singapore, and he is likely to get the nod ahead of Srikanth Ramu.
Pune’s second half performance against Kitchee was an example of their attacking firepower while their first half showed the defensive frailities. The return of the injured duo of Anas Edathodika and Arata Izumi is a huge positive for Mike Snoei who can count on their valuable experiences in a winnable away outing. Youngster Zohalingiana Ralte has been performing exceptionally well in recent outings at left back and he is likely to keep Indian International Gurjinder Kumar on the bench once again.
In the last game Pune FC’s midfield was fielded with the task of providing defensive solidarity. The combination of Dhanpal and Lalrempuia was more of running and hard-work rather than fluidity and creativity. In this game, the Red Lizards are likely to opt for Attack minded duo of Arata Izumi and Duhou Pierre with Mustapha Riga in the number 10 role. The pace and trickery of dimunitive wingers Gabriel Fernandez and Anthony D’Souza will be a welcome sight to watch raiding up and down the flanks.
Striker Mirjan Pavalovic is likely to get the nod ahead of youngster Haokip due to his experience and physical presence upfront. The quadrant of Pavlovic, Gabriel, Riga and Anthony will provide a lot of attacking options for Mike Snoei’s team. The Dutch coach is a big fan of fluid 4-2-3-1 formation with players interchanging their positions to increase their attacking threat and that is what we are likely to witness in Singapore.
Expected Line-up (4-2-3-1): Amrinder Singh; Othallo Tabia, Anas Edathodikka, Calum Angus, Zohalingiana Ralte; Arata Izumi, Duhou Pierre; Gabriel Fernandez, Mustapha Riga, Anthony D’zousa; Mirjan Pavlovic.
Players to Watch Out:
Miljan Mrdakovic (Tampines Rovers)
Striker Miljan Mrdakovic is in fine form notching up 4 goals in S-League already and Pune FC defenders will have a tough task to keep him quiet. The striker is a visible threat in and around the box and is expected to continue his goalscoring exploits. Tampines Rovers’ hopes are relying heavily on the shoulders of their foreign striker and he will be up for the battle with Pune FC skipper and his foreign counterpart.
Arata Izumi (Pune FC)
The Indian Samurai has made a timely return from injury along with his skipper during their last outing in Hong Kong. Arata Izumi is expected to play the role of a deep lying play-maker against Tampines Rovers in Singapore. The transition from defense to attack will be dependent on the play-maker and he needs to be at his best if they are to get the upper hand in the middle of the park. His team-mates in the middle of the park, Duhou and Riga are known for their attacking endevours and Arata is also entrusted with providing the balance in Pune FC side.
Tampines Rovers FC 1-2 Pune FC
Tampines Rovers looked somewhat clueless in AFC Cup competitions this year and it must play a part in their mindsets when they takes the field against Pune FC. The visitors on the other hand had a tough time with the weather and it remains to be seen how they adapt to the artificial turf on a rainy evening. When it comes to the things on the pitch, Pune FC is inspired by their second half comeback against Kitchee and they are likely to maintain that upper-hand in Singapore as well. Pune FC’s quadrant of attackers are in fine form at the moment and they are expected to register the Indian clubs first win in continental competitions.