Coming off two huge wins over Balestier Khalsa and Tampines Rovers in their last two Singapore Premier League (SPL) fixtures, the Lion City Sailors are looking to carry the positive momentum forward and seal second spot in nine-team league standings when they face Hougang United on Sunday (13 August) evening at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
With two games left to play, the Sailors are second in the league with 48 points, eight adrift of leaders Albirex Niigata (S) – who are already confirmed as champions – but four ahead of third-placed Tampines Rovers. A win over the Cheetahs will guarantee a runners-up finish, and with that the right to represent Singapore in 2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) club tournaments, courtesy of being the top local side.
Adam Swandi has been a driving force in the team’s recent good form, and against Hougang, his eyes are firmly fixed on that target.
“A win will secure us second spot – it’s as simple as that. We’ve been in good form of late and we’re going to carry the momentum into this one,” said the 27-year-old, who recorded two assists off the bench in the 5-2 win over Tampines.
“We’re all sad that we couldn’t attain the objective of winning the title, but all we can do now is to focus and at least finish second to secure us AFC qualification – and we’re going all out for this game.”
While the Sailors are in the driving seat to finish second and need just three points from their final two matches to do so, Adam is eager to get the job done against Hougang and avoid added pressure in their final league fixture against Geylang International scheduled for 16 September.
Hougang are also riding atop a high wave, having won their last four games on the trot. The run of form has propelled them to sixth spot and reignited hopes of a top-four finish – they are five points behind fourth-placed Balestier with both teams having three games left to play.
Adam asserts that Hougang will be a tough opponent to crack.
“Hougang have done well in recent seasons and they have quality players in the squad even though they’re not as high up as they should be in the table this year. With players like Gabriel Quak and Đorđe Maksimović, they will be a real threat to us.
“I’m sure they’re going to give their best against us and we definitely can’t underestimate them,” he said.
According to Adam, the game plan against Hougang is evidently a simple one: to stay compact and not allow the Cheetahs a fast start.
“We have to keep our defence tight and we cannot lose concentration when we are defending. But if our defence is compact and we work together in keeping our defence organised, we do not have to worry about getting the goals because we have crazy quality upfront,” he stressed.
The “crazy” quality Adam is referring to includes Richairo Živković, whose second-half brace against the Stags the last time out made it four goals in four starts for the Sailors since his mid-season arrival.
Now getting into his groove, the Curaçaoan forward is looking forward to plunder more goals in the Sailors blue and white and and is extending a heartfelt call to the fans to rally behind and support the team.
“I’m adapting very well to the team and how Coach Ranko (Aleksandar Ranković) wants us to set up. It’s also quite easy to settle in with the quality of attacking players we have,” said the 26-year-old. “Of course it feels great for me to be contributing to the goals, but I’m hungry to do even more for the team. I feel very happy here now and it’s great that we’ve such great support from the fans.
“It was amazing to see them being in full voice at an away ground (Our Tampines Hub) last week and that helped us to a huge win. We’re very motivated to do well as a team for them and I’m really looking forward to their brilliant support again when we go to Jalan Besar Stadium this Sunday.”