Free from expectation to tackle champions

Beleaguered Geylang International coach Noor Ali insists defending champions Albirex Niigata are under more pressure to win when both sides meet at Our Tampines Hub on Sunday.

The Eagles have endured a rough start to the season, picking up seven points from 10 games, and are yet to record a clean sheet this term as they lie sixth in the eight-team Singapore Premier League.

Meanwhile, the White Swans are flying high with a 10-match unbeaten streak. However, they need a win to overtake Lion City Sailors, who went top of the table after beating Young Lions on Saturday.

Noor Ali said: “Nobody expects us to beat Albirex, and the pressure is all on them to beat us to stay on top. Of course, we would rather be in their position, but this is the way things are.

“We have a game plan, we will try to play as freely as possible and make things uncomfortable for them. Who knows what will happen? Football is full of upsets and surprises.”

The injury curse that has beset Geylang has extended even to their fourth-choice goalkeeper Sanders Saurajen, who was stretchered off in last week’s 5-2 defeat by Hougang United, while Nur Luqman, Umar Akhbar and Adam Hakeem remain unavailable.

Zainol Gulam could return in goal, and he did put up a respectable showing in the 1-0 loss to Albirex in their previous encounter in April.

Albirex themselves may also miss their topscorer, 11-goal striker Kiyoshiro Tsuboi, who was hurt in the 2-1 win over Young Lions last week.

If Noor Ali is looking for a chink in Albirex’s armour, it could be in their defence, which had seemed impregnable at the start but has leaked seven times in their last six games, after conceding just once in their first four matches.

This should encourage the likes of seven-goal Brazilian hotshot Matheus Moresche and four-goal local forward Amy Recha to test Takahiro Koga.

Amy said: “We have been trying our best to win games, and you can see in our narrow defeats by Albirex, Sailors and Tampines, sometimes we lack that bit of luck to get over the line.

“It is always difficult when results don’t go our way, but we will not give up. As long as there is another game to play, it means there is another opportunity for us to play well and turn things around.”