Singapore Under-23 coach Aide Iskandar is expecting an improved showing from his players as they step up their pre-season preparations with a friendly against Japan's Under-22 side at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday.
The Young Lions returned from a two-week training stint in Turkey where they faced some top-level opposition. In their four games in Antalya, they lost three (1-3 to the reserves of Russian club Spartak Moscow, 0-5 to the second stringers of German Bundesliga side Hamburg, 0-3 to Yemen's Under-23s) and drew once (1-1 with Uzbekistan's Under-21s).
With just over two weeks to the start of the 20th S-League season and an eye on the 2015 Singapore SEA Games, Aide was confident that his squad were starting to gel and would not make the same defensive mistakes that saw them concede an alarming 12 goals during the training stint.
Said the former Lions skipper during Friday's press conference at M Hotel: "I will field my best team and this is a good opportunity to play another quality team which is necessary for the team to improve.
"We're still in our preparation stage but we have identified areas that we need to work on after coming back from Turkey. My players are very motivated to do well tomorrow against Japan and there's a very strong cohesiveness among them."
Added captain Shakir Hamzah: "The results weren't great but the trip was important for team-bonding. I'm sure we will be competitive against Japan and we will play better than what some people might think we are capable of."
Rising star Irfan Fandi, the eldest son of Fandi Ahmad, will start on the bench in the match at the Jalan Besar Stadium but Aide will give the 17-year-old striker, who stands at 1.87m tall and weighs 76kg, a run-out in the second half.
Said Aide: "I've spoken to him and told him he was selected on merit. I know he's a player that can contribute to the team. He offers us a physical presence up front and has good striking instincts. I want to see how he fares against a team like Japan."
Coached by former J-League player Makoto Teguramori, the visitors are in town as part of their own acclimatisation exercise to prepare for the upcoming Asian Football Confederation Under-23 Championship qualifiers which kick off in late March.
They are in Group I alongside Malaysia, Vietnam and Macau and the tournament also acts as qualification to the 2016 Rio Olympics.