Football: Crunch time as all 8 teams still in contention for Singapore Cup semis spot

Albirex Niigata defender Kaishu Yamazaki. The club is chasing their fifth straight Singapore Cup. PHOTO: ALBIREX NIIGATA

SINGAPORE - As teams prepare for their final Komoco Singapore Cup group stage matches on Wednesday (Oct 23) night it is - in Sir Alex Ferguson's words - squeaky bum time in local football's biggest annual cup competition.

Previously a two-legged knockout competition, this year's tournament features a group stage before semi-final ties, and the format change has thrown up a tense scenario: all eight teams still have a chance at progressing into the final four.

For defending champions Albirex Niigata, chasing their fifth straight Singapore Cup, only a win will confirm a semi-final spot.

The Japanese team are second in Group B with three points, one behind Brunei DPMM. Both meet at the Jurong East Stadium.

In the other group match, Hougang United - also on three points but third due to an inferior goal difference - face Geylang International (one point) at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

White Swans team manager, Matthew Sean said his side are not distracted by the various permutations that could play out and insisted they are only focused on beating league champions DPMM.

"Our target in the Singapore Cup this year is to be champions again," he said.

"We know we just have to focus on this game and look for the win that will help us progress.

"We are playing at home, too, so the players will have added motivation from our fans."

A draw will be sufficient for DPMM but coach Adrian Pennock, 48, vowed his side would not adopt a conservative approach.

"We'll be going there for the win," insisted the former Stoke City assistant manager.

"It's the only way I prepare my teams. No way are we going into a game looking for a draw."

Pennock, who was on the touchline when Stoke reached the 2011 FA Cup final, said this year's format of the Singapore Cup has given the tournament an added buzz.

"It's now like the knockout stage already, because both groups are so tight," he said. "I like it. It's exciting for everybody involved."

He added he was keen to complete a dream double to cap off his first season in charge of DPMM, having lifted the Singapore Premier League in September.

"(DPMM) have never won the Singapore Cup before, so it would be lovely to win," he said.

"I can see why it's so difficult because (in the Singapore Cup) we're away from home in every single game (playing matches in Singapore). But if we win, it would be the icing on the cake."

The situation in Group A is identical. Warriors FC lead the table with four points, and, like DPMM, need only a point in their game with Balestier Khalsa (third with three points) at Bishan Stadium to progress into the semi-finals.

Also in contention are second-placed Tampines Rovers (three points) and Home United (one point). They meet at the Our Tampines Hub.

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