Match Of The Week

New blood may give Tigers fresh impetus

Balestier Khalsa are hoping the foreign pairing of 18-year-olds Dusan Marinkovic (left) and Sanjin Vrebac can give their injury-hit squad a boost ahead of their Singapore Premier League clash against Tampines Rovers today.
Balestier Khalsa are hoping the foreign pairing of 18-year-olds Dusan Marinkovic (left) and Sanjin Vrebac can give their injury-hit squad a boost ahead of their Singapore Premier League clash against Tampines Rovers today.ST PHOTO: ZHANG XUAN

SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE

Balestier Khalsa v Tampines Rovers

Toa Payoh, 5.30pm


They had a great start to the season, winning three times and drawing once in their first six games. The run even took Balestier Khalsa up to second place in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) at one point.

But the Tigers' form has dipped lately as ankle injuries to foreign strikers Keegan Linderboom and Vedran Mesec has led to them losing four of their last five games, falling to fourth in the nine-team league with eight losses in total.

Coach Marko Kraljevic is hoping fresh blood - in the form of new teenage imports Dusan Marinkovic and Sanjin Vrebac - can inject some much-needed quality and youthful enthusiasm into his flagging side, who will host second-placed Tampines Rovers today.

"Any time new players join the team, it can give the whole team a boost," said the Croat.

"They are young boys, playing outside their country for the first time, so they may need a little time to adjust.

"But from what I have seen over the three training sessions we have had, they certainly have quality."

Marinkovic is a striker while Vrebac is an attacking midfielder. Both turned 18 earlier this year, and have signed for Balestier's Under-19 side.

Marinkovic was previously with FK Internacional in his native Serbia, while Vrebac, an Austrian, last played for German fifth-tier side VfR Fischeln.

Even if they are able to take to the pitch, Kraljevic is expecting a tough evening. The Stags have lost only three times in 12 matches - and two of those losses were to SPL leaders Albirex Niigata, who have a 100 per cent record.

He said: "Tampines have been the best local side this season.It will be extra difficult for us because other than Keegan and Vedran, we also have Raihan (Rahman) out injured and two other players (Fadli Kamis and Huzaifah Aziz) suspended."

Tampines coach Jurgen Raab, however, insisted his charges cannot take their opponents lightly.

"Balestier were very successful at the beginning, but they have struggled to find solutions for their injured strikers," said the German.

"I expect a tough fight from them on their home ground. If we take it easy, we will have a problem.

"We must treat them very seriously and try to repeat our performance against Home United (a 1-0 win on Tuesday) tomorrow."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2018, with the headline 'New blood may give Tigers fresh impetus'. Print Edition | Subscribe