Match Of The Week

Football: Title talk disrespectful of rivals, says Albirex Niigata coach

Albriex Niigata midfielder Hiroyoshi Kamata (far left) and defender Kaishu Yamazaki during training at Jurong East Stadium. There has been no let-up in intensity by the two-time defending champions since the season began. They have won 16 straight ga
Albriex Niigata midfielder Hiroyoshi Kamata (far left) and defender Kaishu Yamazaki during training at Jurong East Stadium. There has been no let-up in intensity by the two-time defending champions since the season began. They have won 16 straight games and coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga hopes his players will maintain their focus for the rest of the campaign.ST PHOTO: SONG TAO

SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE

Albirex Niigata vs Young Lions

Jurong East Stadium, 7.45pm

They have been the Singapore Premier League's (SPL) unstoppable force and so far, there has been no immovable object that can halt Albirex Niigata's perfect run.

But the White Swans' coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga is not thinking of wrapping up a third consecutive title just yet, despite a record run of 16 straight wins since the campaign started in April.

And the tactician will not allow any title talk to distract him and his players from their relentless pursuit of footballing perfection.

"We take one game at a time. It is embarrassing and disrespecting the other teams (to talk about sealing the title today)," Yoshinaga told The Straits Times.

"We are just prepared to win each game as it comes and take nothing for granted. It is to be as professional as much as possible."

The Japanese club, with a maximum 48 points from 16 games and 19 points clear of second-placed Tampines Rovers, host Young Lions at the Jurong East Stadium tonight. Fandi Ahmad's side sit seventh in the nine-team table with 16 points.

Although Tampines will be out of the race if they lose to DPMM today, the Bruneian side, on 25 points and with two games in hand, are still contenders mathematically. But Albirex will be crowned champions if DPMM lose to Home United on Saturday.

Regardless of the result tonight, 2018 has been a stellar campaign for Albirex so far.

The previous best start to a season was made by Warriors FC a decade ago when they began the 2008 campaign with eight consecutive wins on their way to the S-League title.

  • OTHER FIXTURES

  • TODAY (JULY 18)

    Brunei DPMM vs Tampines (Bandar Seri Begawan, 8.15pm)

    SATURDAY

    Tampines vs Geylang (Our Tampines Hub, 5.30pm)

    DPMM vs Home United (Bandar Seri Begawan, 8.15pm)

    SUNDAY

    Warriors FC vs Young Lions (Choa Chu Kang, 5.30pm)

    Balestier Khalsa vs Albirex Niigata (Toa Payoh , 5.30pm)

That record was smashed by the White Swans earlier this term.

Albirex are also on another stunning run. They have won 34 straight games at Jurong East. The last time they tasted defeat at home was in November 2015, when Tampines beat them 1-0.

But Yoshinaga has urged his players to remain humble and keep working hard, saying: "There are no easy games this year or last year. We treat each game the same way and do not disrespect our opponents."

And even if that winning run extends to 17 matches to take them to the brink of popping the bubbly, the tactician sees no significance in that record-extending mark.

He said: "It does not have any special meaning to win 17 games. It will not guarantee our future. I just want my team to go out there, do their best and to improve themselves individually."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2018, with the headline 'Title talk disrespectful of rivals: White Swans' coach'. Print Edition | Subscribe