SINGAPORE - Tampines Rovers could seal passage to the Asean zone semi-finals of the AFC Cup with a win over Yangon United at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday (May 1), but Stags head coach Kadir Yahaya has warned his charges to be wary of their Myanmarese opponents.
Tampines lead Group F with 10 points, three ahead of Vietnam's Ha Noi FC. Cambodian side Nagaworld and Yangon have three points apiece, but Nagaworld are third ahead of Yangon because of a better head-to-head record. Each team have played four matches.
Yangon are all but out of the running for a place for the knock-off stages - they will not win Group F and are unlikely to finish as the best second-placed team among the three Asean groups - which makes them a threat, according to Kadir.
At the pre-game media conference at the Corpthorne King's Hotel on Tuesday, the former Singapore international said: "They have nothing to lose, and so the danger we are facing is that they are playing with no objective.
"They can attack at will, and for us it is important to remain calm, and keep our shape and composure."
The caution that Kadir is showing comes after his team left it till late before beating Nagaworld 4-2 in their last AFC Cup game on April 17. The Stags were expected to rout the visitors, but were held at 1-1 until the dying minutes.
"We expected their (Nagaworld's) fast counter attacks, and there were some lapses in concentration on our part which resulted in them equalising (to make it 1-1)," said Kadir, who added that his team's experienced stars like Khairul Amri and Daniel Bennett would be key against Yangon.
"Credit to the players, they kept fighting and eventually we got the goals and result we wanted."
Tampines are hoping for some respite in the AFC Cup after a poor run in the Singapore Premier League (SPL), where they are winless in their last four games .
Kadir believes that squad rotation - essential when competing in the AFC Cup - affects the team's consistency, and pointed to how Home United also suffered domestically during their run to the Asean zone crown in 2018, and how the Protectors posted stronger results in the SPL after the group stage of the AFC Cup.
Home won just two of their first seven SPL games last term, but then won 10 of their next 17 matches to finish second.
Yangon coach Myo Min Tun said he is expecting a tough night for his charges, especially with first-choice goalkeeper Kyaw Zin Htet (illness) and Guinean striker Sekou Sylla (suspension) out for the game.
"Tampines have many good and skilful individual players, like the two wingers (Ryutaro Megumi and Jordan Webb)," noted the 35-year-old, who scored for Myanmar against Singapore in the 2008 AFF Suzuki Cup.
"Tomorrow will be very difficult for us, but we will do our best to challenge and show our level and our team's playing style."