Albirex Niigata host Brunei DPMM in their third S.League encounter of the ongoing season at the Jurong East Stadium on Thursday evening.
The defending champions are heading into their first home game of the season after decimating Garena Young Lions 5-0 on Saturday. A goal each from Kento Nagasaki, Ryota Nakai, Takuya Akiyama and a brace from Tsubasa Sano made sure they routed their hapless opposition.
The quadruple winners of the last season have already won a title this season - the Great Eastern Community Shield by outclassing Tampines Rovers on the opening day of the season at the National Stadium. Despite losing some of their key performers of last season including Atsushi Kawata, Atsushi Shirota and Tatsuro Inui, newly-appointed coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga appears to have made sure the White Swans remain a strong force in the league.
Shoichiro Sakamoto, who scored a brace in their win over the Stags and Tsubasa Sano are looking good help the team replicate last season's achievements. However, Yoshinaga is not fully convinced with his team's performance and reportedly has demanded improvement in their "passing and transition play".
On the other hand, 2015 winners Brunei will look to bounce back from their season-opening 3-1 defeat to Home United with a positive performance on Thursday but they will have to be at their best to put one across Albirex, whom they have beaten only once in their last five meetings.
Steve Kean will not want another slow start to the season as initial hurdles in 2016 cost them quite a bit. Striker Rafael Ramazotti, who has finished as the league's top-scorer in the last two seasons, has already opened his account and he will have to play a huge role if Brunei are to emerge victorious.
Possible XI: Nozawa, Tanaka, Akiyama, Yanagi, Nagasaki, Inaba, Nakai, Kamata, Motoda, Sakamoto, Sano
Possible XI: Yussof, Yunus, Saleh, Petara, Kamis, Kasmi, Idris, Tarif, Ali Rahman, Mehmet, Ramazotti