BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Monday, February 11, 2013
GEYLANG International's coach V Kanan insists DPMM FC and Tampines Rovers FC will be the teams to beat in next week's Singapore League (S-League).
The Eagles take on defending champions Tampines in the first day of the season on February 20, and their coach feels the Stags and DPMM FC who finished second last year are favourites for the title.
Geylang who used to be known as Geylang United lost last season's Singapore League Cup to DPMM FC and split their results in the S-League, so Kanan knows first-hand the threat Brunei's only professional club can pose to Singapore football.
"Tampines and DPMM FC are the two strongest teams this year," Kanan told Singaporean daily The New Paper last week.
"I had wanted to play them both as early as possible.
"As the season progresses, their players will gel and they will get more difficult to play against.
"Of course, playing them in the first week won't be easy either, but we are well prepared," said Kanan, who like Balestier Khalsa's Darren Stewart came out second best to DPMM FC coach Vjeran Simunic for last season's S-League Coach of the Year award.
Kanan is no strangers to awards though, and got the nod for the Geylang hot seat last year after leading the club's Prime League squad to the title in 2011.
Young Lions (Singaporean national Under-21 team) take on Hougang United at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore in the other opening-night fixture while DPMM FC travel to the Bishan Stadium in Singapore to play Home United in their first game of the season on February 21.
DPMM FC host Hougang United in their first home game of the year on March 1 before facing Young Lions on March 7 and Japanese outfit Albirex Niigata (S) on March 11.
The S-League's curtain-raiser pits Tampines against Singapore Cup holders Warriors FC formerly known as Singapore Armed Forces FC in the Charity Shield at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday.
Like most clubs in the S-League, Geylang who finished 11th in the 13-table pile last season have been active on the transfer market.
Bolstered by the signing of former Albirex Niigata (S) FC goalkeeper Takuma Ito and defender Norihiro Kawakami, the Eagles have also roped in Home's Shotaro Ihata who netted 10 S-League goals last season for an added edge in attack.
Though Kanan seemed to think Tampines are capable of going all the way this campaign, Tampines' coach did not want to put any additional pressure on his players.
Nenad Bacina also felt that all the teams that had a poor season in 2012 will be eager to bounce back in 2013.
"It is a new season," the Croatian told The New Paper.
"For all the teams that didn't do well last year like Geylang, they will come into this season very positively with new players and a new mood we cannot compare this season with the last one.
"I definitely do not see why we should be the favourites for this game (against Geylang).
"We play against the Warriors in the Charity Shield and, five days later, we will play against Geylang, so it won't be easy for us.
"At the end of last season, they played very good competitive and attractive football, so I don't see why they can't continue with the same approach," noted the former Hougang United FC coach and Warriors FC captain.
Football Association of Singapore (FAS) have only released the first five weeks of fixtures for the upcoming season.
An FAS spokesman explained that the delay in releasing the fixtures was due to attempts to avoid clashes with the LionsXII's matches in the Malaysian Super League (MSL).