Albirex Niigata take on Hougang United in their fifth match of 2017 S.League season at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday.
The defending champions are heading into the game on the back of a 2-2 draw against leaders Home United on the road on 1 April. On the other hand, Hougang suffered a 2-0 defeat to the Protectors at home last Sunday, which was also their third defeat of the ongoing league season.
Albirex have resumed from where they left last season as the quadruple winners have not lost a game yet and are placed second on the table only due to Home's better goal difference - two teams tied at 10 points each. Kazuaki Yoshinaga's men have a good chance to leapfrog Aidil Sharin's team if they can snatch a win on Friday and the hosts will start as favourites to add to their tally.
Despite not winning three points against Home in their last match, Albirex will take confidence from the way they fought back after being 2-0 down in the first-half. Goals from Tsubasa Sano (45) Kento Nagasaki (88) helped the defending champions maintain their unbeaten streak.
Even after losing quite a few key players, including Atsushi Kawata, Atsushi Shirota and Tatsuro Inui, after the last season, the hosts have been able to combine well as a unit early in the season with Sano, Nagasaki and Ryota Nakai playing key roles.
Meanwhile, Hougang, who have been struggling with three loses from five games, will have to be disciplined at the back if they are to stand a chance against the hosts. Shirota's presence at the back will benefit Philippe Aw's men as the former Albirex star is familiar with the way the White Swans operate.
Having not beaten Albirex in their last five meetings, Hougang will look to reverse the fortunes, but given their recent form, breaching the defending champions' den seems to be an uphill task.
Possible XI: Akiyama, Tanaka, Inaba, Nakai, Kamata, Sano, Nagasaki, Sakamoto, Yanagi, Matoda, Nazawa
Possible XI: Hudzaifli, Shirota, Farhan, Sairudin, Nazari, Anumanthan, Arifin, Viterale, Khalid, Miswan, Kogure