Tampines Rovers were thrashed 4-0 in their away leg of 2017 AFC Cup Group G clash against Vietnam's Hanoi FC last month but skipper Madhu Mohana believes that his team will push for a positive result when they take on the V League 1 side at home on Tuesday.
The Stags overall have struggled to get going in the new season after finishing without a piece of silverware last season. Under new coach Juergen Raab, Tampines have failed to stitch two consecutive wins (all competitions) so far.
After starting the AFC Cup campaign on a high beating Felda United at home, Tampines have suffered big defeats to Ceres Negros (5-0) and Hanoi (4-0) and are at the third spot of Group G above the Malaysian Super League side with three points. As only one team from the group will progress to the next stages of the tournament, a win today is necessary for the S.League side, who have two more matches after today's clash in the campaign.
Skipper Madhu knows the team is in for a stiff test against Hanoi, who are in excellent league form as well topping the V League 1 table. The Tampines are heading into the game on the back of a 1-0 loss to Warriors FC in their league outing as recently as on Saturday and also they will be without first-choice striker Khairul Amri and centre-back Daniel Bennett, both of whom picked up knocks during Singapore's Asian Cup Qualifiers against Bahrain in Riffa last month.
"We realise the quality we are up against, but we believe we can match them. It will be tough without some of our senior players, but we will still go all out to get three points against Hanoi," Madhu said, as quoted by The New Paper.
"Looking at the table, we are just two points behind the top two and we have two home games out of our three remaining Group G matches, so we must get maximum points from those matches."
Coach Raab, on the other hand, is not happy with S.League for scheduling a league match right before their crucial AFC Cup match. The German tactician is quick to point out that Hanoi, who last played a competitive match on 23 March, are better placed to get a positive result but stressed on the need for defensive discipline after leaking nine goals in their last two matches of the tournament to stand a chance against the Vietnamese side.
"I do not feel there is equal opportunity for both teams because we had to play on Saturday, while Hanoi had the weekend off. It is not ideal preparation, so if we want a chance to make a good result, we have to play over our limits," Raab opined.
"These teams in the AFC Cup are playing at a higher level compared to the S.League. We have to play very well in defence and make no mistakes."