Faris Ramli aims to maintain Home United's S.League title hopes
The 2017 S.League season resumes after a two-and-a-half week break on Friday, with local powerhouses Home United and Tampines Rovers looking to close the gap on leaders and defending champions Albirex Niigata (S).
Twelve points clear of Tampines and a further point ahead of Home, the relentless White Swans are expected to pick up another routine victory against bottom side Garena Young Lions in a televised game at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night.
Home, with three games in hand, go away to Bandar Seri Begawan to take on struggling Brunei DPMM on the same night, with Singapore national team players Hassan Sunny, Izzdin Shafiq and Faris Ramli looking to shrug off fatigue.
The trio were involved in the Lions' 1-1 home draw against Turkmenistan in an Asian Cup qualifier just three nights ago, along with Irfan Fandi, who was not selected as part of Aidil Sharin's final 18-man squad, due to National Service commitments.
The Protectors have already beaten DPMM four times in 2017, triumphing 3-1 in Brunei and producing a stunning 9-3 home victory in the S.League.
Aidil's side then came up with identical 3-1 wins over two legs in August to progress into the Singapore Cup semis at the Wasps' expense.
Incredibly, Faris has scored in all four games with a total of eight goals against Steve Kean's outfit this year.
"We have enjoyed an amazing run this season, which outlines our confidence in approaching every game," Faris told ESPN FC. "The team has gelled very well and the chemistry between each player is there. It will be difficult for them to break us down."
The 25-year-old will provide the ammunition for Croatian marksman Stipe Plazibat, whose record of 30 goals places him fifth alongside Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane in the list of players with the most goals in 2017.
Cristiano Ronaldo is top of the pile with 37, while Lionel Messi follows with 35.
Meanwhile, Tampines, who have two games in hand, host sixth-placed Hougang United at Our Tampines Hub a night later, looking to put behind the disappointment of a 4-0 walloping at the hands of Albirex the last time out.
That defeat led to coach Jurgen Raab throwing in the towel on their title chances, but the Stags can still mount a late bid if they string some wins together.
The five-time champions came up trumps in both head-to-head encounters against Hougang, winning 2-1 in a televised clash at Jalan Besar in March and 3-0 at Hougang Stadium in May.
Raab may have to make do without chief striker Khairul Amri, who came off in the first half of Singapore's draw against Turkmenistan, due to a slight strain. Fazrul Nawaz is expected to deputise up front.
The game marks the start of a gruelling schedule for the Stags, with four games in the space of 12 days.
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT