SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE
Young Lions v Home United
National Stadium, 5.30pm
Home United coach Aidil Sharin has challenged his youth players to step up in today's Singapore Premier League (SPL) match against the Young Lions at the National Stadium.
The Protectors may have only three players on the substitutes' bench as key defender Shakir Hamzah is suspended and six of their 21-man squad are sidelined with injuries - including foreign signings Sirina Camara and Song Ui Young, as well as captain Juma'at Jantan.
"We have six players on the treatment table, and Shakir Hamzah is suspended for this match. Song is still doubtful and, if he's just 50-50, I won't risk him because we have the Tampines (Rovers) game coming up very soon," said Aidil.
"The younger ones will have to step up. They initially couldn't adapt, but they are now playing on a weekly basis and getting into a rhythm. No disrespect to the Young Lions, but we must show that we are a better team."
Despite the injury woes, Aidil is demanding nothing less than three points to drive their bid to be the best local side. Albirex Niigata are the runaway leaders on 36 points with 12 wins from 12 games.
The White Swans are 14 points ahead of second-placed Tampines, who have a game in hand and will face Home, who are in third spot and five points behind, on Tuesday.
"Tampines lost their last game against Warriors FC (3-2), and it's important that we close the gap and put more pressure on them before we face them in our next league match on Tuesday," said Aidil.
Fandi Ahmad's Young Lions are seventh on 12 points in the nine-team standings.
After a promising start, the national youth development team are winless in their last six matches.
Aidil understands why they are struggling, but he will not take anything for granted.
"They have players in school and others who are serving national service, and most of them are playing their first season in the league," he said of the Young Lions, who started the season brightly by beating Hougang United and the Warriors in their first two matches.
"When they can settle (down) and play their football, they can be good - we have already seen them win - but I think the young boys didn't know how to cope with the pressure that came after winning.
"We cannot afford to take them lightly, so we will keep putting pressure on them and not let them settle down after kick-off."