Tigers unfazed by high-flying White Swans

They may be bottom of the S-League, shorn of their two foreign stars and fighting fatigue due to their midweek AFC Cup exploits against New Radiant in the Maldives.

But Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic remains confident of beating in-form Albirex Niigata today.

"It has only been one game (in the S-League) and there's still a long way to go in the season. Some teams pick up early while some pick up late," the 50-year-old said.

The Tigers, who lost a host of key players in the off-season such as winger Ignatius Ang (Warriors FC) and Croatian centre-back Igor Cerina (Sabah United), started the season with a shock 0-1 loss to developmental side Garena Young Lions.

They are also without injured foreign imports Emir Lotinac (leg) and Robert Pericic (knee), but Kraljevic believes his local players are up to the task.

He noted: "We coped in the AFC Cup (against New Radiant) without them and all our locals are ready."

Skipper Zaiful Nizam also believes his team will not be easy pickings for the White Swans (Albirex).

"They have won both games and had a good start but our team are now more gelled and there is greater understanding among the players," he said. "They shouldn't think that they can beat us easily."

Balestier managed an impressive top-four finish last season, and Kraljevic believes the current standings are not a true reflection of his side's abilities.

When asked if it will be difficult for his side to secure a victory, he quipped: "For us or for them?"

Pan Zaixiang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2016, with the headline 'Tigers unfazed by high-flying White Swans'. Print Edition | Subscribe