White Swans aim for sweep of trophies

Albirex Niigata's midfield talisman Tatsuro Inui has played an important role in his club's title charge, contributing nine league goals.
Albirex Niigata's midfield talisman Tatsuro Inui has played an important role in his club's title charge, contributing nine league goals.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

The chance to go 10 points clear at the S-League summit is not the only reason why Albirex Niigata coach Naoki Naruo will be gunning for victory against closest rivals Tampines Rovers tonight .

The 41-year-old tactician has bigger ambitions in targeting a quadruple of local football trophies.

He said: "When I came to Singapore, my target was to win all four domestic titles - it was already decided. A win against Tampines (today) will not only increase the possibility of us winning the league, but also take some pressure off the players to concentrate on the two Cup competitions coming up.

"They will focus on every match they play and are out to show we can challenge for the title in every competition out there."

After clinching the Community Shield in February's season opener, league leaders Albirex will look to kick off their defence of the Singapore Cup next week. They are also the holders of the League Cup, with this year's edition commencing next month.

Albirex's desire to establish themselves on all fronts is evident in their current 10-match winning run and Naruo feels they could not be playing the Stags at a better time.

"We're on a roll and we want to maintain our good string of results," he added. "Against Tampines, we want to dominate the game and it is a very good opportunity for us to show how serious our title challenge is."

Besides boasting the league's best attack, scoring 38 goals in 15 matches, Albirex also have the meanest defence - shipping just 11 goals. But even though the White Swans conceded five in their last three matches, that does not bother Naruo.

He explained: "This is because we're trying to be more aggressive - that's why we get caught on counter attacks. Previously, we tried to sit back but now we want to show more aggression."

Midfielder Tatsuro Inui, 26, who has notched nine league goals, said: "We played Tampines in April when we beat them 1-0 so we know it'll be a very difficult game."

In tonight's other fixture, eighth- placed Balestier Khalsa will take on Brunei DPMM at Jalan Besar.

Yogaraj Panditurai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2016, with the headline 'White Swans aim for sweep of trophies'. Print Edition | Subscribe