Tampines Rovers are gearing up to host Ceres Negros in their final AFC Cup 2017 Group G match of on Wednesday and their coach Juergen Raab believes that their 5-0 defeat to the Filipino side in March will only serve as a motivating factor for the team.
The S.League giants opened their AFC Cup campaign on a high with a win over Felda United. However, the victory over the Malaysian outfit was followed by three defeats on the trot, which hampered their chances of making it past the group stages. Last season's quarter-finalists though pulled one back against Felda last month to give themselves a glimmer of hope.
With six points in their bag, the Stags need nothing less than a win against leaders Ceres (eight points from five games) tomorrow. In addiiton to this, their qualification to the Asean semi-final also depends on the performance of fourth-placed Felda (five points) as the Malaysian side needs to beat Hanoi FC (eight points) and stop them from topping the table.
"If you have lost a match 5-0, nobody is happy and you know there is ambition for every player to show they can bring more than what happened in Ceres," Raab told International Business Times Singapore.
"The match is not difficult, it is nice [opportunity] because we have the chance to overtake Ceres and nobody had expected us to be in this position for this match."
Tampines were completely outplayed at the Panaad Stadium in March as Ceres struck three in the first half and two more in the second to deflate the visiting Singapore side, who were still struggling to find the perfect combination after star players, including Jermaine Pennant, had left the team at the end of last season.
Fit-again Madhu Mohana ready for return
However, putting behind initial struggles, the Stags have produced positive results in the recent past and have been unbeaten in their last four matches, which has helped them move to the second spot in the S.League table.
The availability of skipper Madhu Mohana, who was out of action for three weeks with a hamstring injury, and Khairul Amri has also made the camp optimistic about their chances of avenging their defeat to Ceres, according to Raab.
"It is the last match and all know how is the situation. With a win, we have a chance to qualify but depends on the other match [Felda vs Hanoi FC]. Our target always is to win. Some key players are back like Madhu and Amri so we are very optimistic for this match," the German tactician said.