'Tampines will use S.League game against Albirex as tune-up for Singapore Cup final'

While Albirex have already sealed the S.League 2016 title, Tampines have secured a second-place finish.

Mustafic Fahrudin
Tampines skipper Fahrdudin (R) will miss Wedneday's clash due to suspension Reuters

Tampines Rovers coach Akbar Nawas has said he will test his bench strength in their final S.League game against Albirex Niigata on Wednesday.

The tie at the Jalan Besar Stadium will be inconsequential as Albirex Niigata have already sealed S.League 2016 title. They went clear of their nearest rivals Tampines on October 14 when they defeated Hougang United 3-0. The Stags have also secured a second-place finish as they have an unassailable five-point lead over third-placed Brunei DPMM.

However, the two teams will meet again on Saturday for the all-important Singapore Cup final. While Albirex would be hoping for a quadruple, after having won the Community Shield and League Cup as well, Tampines will have a lot to play for as they would not want to end the season without a single piece of silverware.

Tampines have been marred by uncertainty prevailing over the futures of their senior players including foreign stars Jermaine Pennant and Billy Mehmet, after the team management decision to considerably reduce the wage budget.

Also read: 'Exit of Jermaine Pennant and Billy Mehmet will impact Tampines Rovers'

Chairman Krishna Ramachandra has also insisted he would want an affordable team and has not ruled out exits of his key players who do not accept the revised salaries. Despite the dull mood in the camp, the Tampines romped to a 2-0 win over Balestier Khalsa on Saturday.

Nawas maintained that Wednesday's clash will give him enough time to assess Albirex ahead of the big final on Saturday.

"Our main aim for Wednesday's game is to use it as a tune-up for the Singapore Cup final," Nawas was quoted as saying by The New Paper.

"I will mix it up a bit, playing some first-team players with some of the fringe members of the squad that deserve a chance.

"Obviously, the match is of no consequence in terms of the S.League and some would even say we should just flip a coin to decide the result. Still, we have to be professionals and do our jobs."

On the other hand, Albirex suffered a 3-1 defeat to fourth-placed Home United in their last league game on Thursday. The White Swans coach Naoki Naruo says it is important for his team to not make such mistakes on Wednesday.

Albirex would want to lift the trophy on Wednesday after a positive 90 minutes and the 42-year-old coach is wary of the Tampines unit that has the ability to foil their party.

"Our last performance was very bad because there was a lack of motivation. But I suppose it was difficult in a way because it was right after we became champions," Naruo said.

"We won't repeat the same mistake on Wednesday.

"I am thinking of making some changes with one eye on the final, but we will still go into the two games looking to win both. Furthermore, Tampines have a lot of good players, so I'm expecting a tough game even if they leave out some of their key men."