Khairul Amri out, but Singapore to go for jugular vs. Chinese Taipei
Even without chief striker Khairul Amri, Singapore will go on the attack in search of the three points when they host Chinese Taipei in a 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifer at Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday night.
A win will put the Lions in a good position to qualify for the tournament after starting their third-round qualifying campaign with a handy 0-0 away draw against Bahrain in March.
Amri, who has 32 goals in 115 internationals, is likely to miss the crucial clash, due to an apparent appendicitis issue. But coach V. Sundramoorthy was in a defiant mood when he spoke during the pre-match media conference at Amara Hotel.
"Amri's doubtful, but the rest of the players are okay," he said. "We want to get the points, so we will try to go out there and score goals.
"It's our home ground, we will go to attack, but we must be careful. We cannot open up too much and get punished. We must come up with a plan which will suit our team well."
There are other striking options like Khairul Nizam and Shahril Ishak in the 23-man squad. But Sundram is expected to opt for utility man Safuwan Baharudin to fill the void up front.
The 25-year-old, who has eight goals for Malaysia Premier League side PDRM FA this season, put in a good shift as a centre-forward when coming on as a second-half substitute in Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Myanmar in a closed-door friendly.
The game will not be held at National Stadium where they have played most of their competitive games since its reopening in 2014 due to a clashing Rugby international. But Singapore vice-captain Hariss Harun believes it won't affect their chances.
"I think almost every player have played sufficiently on this pitch [at Jalan Besar], either with the national team or in the S.League, so we're used to the [synthetic] pitch," said the 26-year-old, who is on-loan at Home United from Johor Darul Ta'zim.
"The boys are feeling really positive after our first result [against Bahrain] so we go into this game with a lot of confidence. I hope the fans come in numbers and create a good atmosphere; it will be a boost for the boys."
Visitors Chinese Taipei, who are three places below Singapore in the FIFA rankings at 160th, will be hoping to use the underdogs' tag to good effect.
"Our team is not as good as Singapore and their ability is better than us in all aspects, so we want to learn from them in this game," said coach Kazuo Kuroda, a 68-year-old Japanese. "We definitely need to look out for every Singapore player.
"We watched the match videos of Singapore for the last one to two years, so we only know a little bit about them. It's important for us to score first and look out in defence."
Singapore will host two-time world champions Argentina in a glamour friendly three days after facing Chinese Taipei.
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT