SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE
Tampines Rovers v Balestier Khalsa
Our Tampines Hub, 5.30pm
There are only three games left to play in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) season, and with the title long sewn up by a rampant Albirex Niigata, observers would be forgiven if they expected a limp procession to the finish line.
But there is no such ennui at Our Tampines Hub.
Indeed, Tampines Rovers coach Jurgen Raab was candidly critical of his charges, and called for a fiery finish to the season, starting this evening against Balestier Khalsa.
"I'm not satisfied with how the season has gone. We have too few points and we've failed in some matches, to get the consistency that we needed," said the German.
"I demanded from the team that we raise our levels."
The Stags are second in the nine-team table on 36 points, a massive 23 behind Albirex. They are level with Home United, ahead only by a goal difference of six. Brunei side DPMM FC are fourth (31) but have a game in hand.
"The question is, why can we put in brilliant performances against top teams, then be disappointing against others?" mulled Raab, who pointed to a lack of composure, occasional loss of focus, even the absence of patience at critical times.
His side have blown hot and cold throughout the year, pushing the unbeaten Albirex close on all three occasions, and taking four points (one win and a draw) against Home, but then playing poorly, even losing 2-1 to the Young Lions last month.
After Balestier, Tampines travel to Brunei to face DPMM (next Saturday), before hosting Home (Sept 29), in a must-win game.
During the international break that saw the national team take on Mauritius and Fiji, the Stags enjoyed 10 days off and the 59-year-old Raab said this will beneficial.
"We've been focusing on recovery because it has been a very long season for us. We started training in December last year," he said.
He believes that post-break bodyfat tests have shown that players - who were given individual fitness programmes during the break - have taken things in the right spirit.
"The rest that the players have will help us. Everyone is rested and fit and we're not going to repeat the same mistakes," he said.
"We know how Balestier play, they are a very compact team who like to sit deep. We must find a solution, but not get caught on their dangerous counter-attacks."
He highlighted Balestier's ability at set-pieces as a danger but said: "We must start today with full power and get three points to kick off these last three games of the season. And we must win those too."