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Aw Wary Of Eagles’ Threat

Hougang United vs Geylang International

(Monday, 27 February, 7.30pm, Hougang Stadium)

Written by: Shawn Lim

After achieving their best-ever finish of sixth in the 2016 S.League, Hougang United have built on that success by making waves both on and off the pitch in the off-season.

The Cheetahs have replaced head coach K. Balagumaran with Philippe Aw and the former Home United head coach has brought along with him two his ex-colleagues, namely assistant coach Robin Chitrakar and fitness coach Dirk Schauenberg 

In addition, they have installed a state-of-the-art dugout and dressing room at the Hougang Stadium.

Keeping faith with the core of players that served them well last year, Aw’s philosophy of youth and attacking football has seen him bring in the likes of Azhar Sairudin, Zulfahmi Arifin, Syahiran Miswan and Amir Zalani, all of whom played under Aw at Home last year.

In addition, the Cheetahs have signed Spaniard Pablo Rodriguez to replace last season’s top scorer Stipe Plazibat upfront, while welcoming back old boy Fareez Farhan.

On Monday night, Aw will take charge of his first S.League game since July 2016 when Hougang entertain Geylang International in their 2017 Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League opener.

While the 39-year-old was effusive in his praise towards his new employers for their long-term vision, the tactician feels something has to be done to improve on their sixth-placed finish last year.

However, Aw admits there is additional pressure as the Eagles are no pushovers with both clubs locked in a fierce battle for a spot in the AFC Cup last year, before losing out to the Protectors.

“Our club have done good stuff off the field, so it's time we show it on the field too. The boys have been focused so far and they know the big task we have this season,” said Aw.

“Playing against Geylang won't be easy. They are a settled team with little changes from last season.

“There will be pressure as many expect us to do well regardless home or away, but pressure is something we need to live with if we want to get to the top."

Despite the number of ex-Home players in his squad, Aw insists that there will be no favouritism and every player will have an equal chance to fight for a place in the starting lineup.

“After some variations (of personnel and tactics), we already have (a first team) in mind. But this can change over the course of the season,” explained Aw.

“I like to depend on the squad, so every player fights for his first team spot.”

While much of the spotlight has been the Cheetahs in the run-up to the start of the season, it has been a relatively quiet off-season for the Eagles.

They have opted for stability by retaining 14 players and have only made two new signings in Argentine Ricardo Sendra and Costa Rican Victor Coto.

Geylang head coach Hasrin Jailani will continue to lead the quest for the Eagles to qualify for the AFC Cup and will be pleased with the players he has at his disposal, despite allowing the likes of Sahil Suhaimi, Mark Hartmann, Carlos Delgado and Daniel Bennett to leave Bedok Stadium.

Both teams will however have suspension woes of their own to contend with.

Hougang duo Nurhilmi Jasni and Faiz Salleh will will miss out for Hougang while Stanely Ng sits this out as well after all three picked up their seventh booking in the last match of the 2016 season.

Suspensions: Stanely Ng (Geylang International), Nurhilmi Jasni and Faiz Salleh (both Hougang United)

Hougang United - WDLLL

25/10/16    Warriors FC 5-1 Hougang United

20/10/16    Hougang United 0-1 Geylang International

14/10/16    Albirex Niigata (S) 3-0 Hougang United

01/10/16    Hougang United 1-1 Balestier Khalsa

23/09/16    Garena Young Lions 0-2 Hougang United

Geylang International - WLWWW

25/10/16    Geylang International 4-1 Home United

20/10/16    Hougang United 0-1 Geylang International

14/10/16    Geylang International 2-1 Warriors FC

Photo: Hougang United Football Club

22/09/16    Albirex Niigata (S) 1-0 Geylang International

25/08/16    Geylang International 2-1 Balestier Khalsa

Head to Head (S.League)

20/10/16    Hougang United 0-1 Geylang International

18/06/16    Geylang International 1-2 Hougang United

07/04/16    Hougang United 3-1 Geylang International

09/11/15    Geylang International 2-2 Hougang United

19/05/15    Hougang United 1-0 Geylang International
Tags:
  • Geylang International
  • Great Eastern
  • S.league
  • Hyundai
  • Hougang United