The Lion City Sailors will be looking to bounce back from consecutive defeats when they go on the road to face second-from-bottom Balestier Khalsa at Toa Payoh Stadium on Sunday (2 October) evening.
It will be the Sailors’ first Singapore Premier League (SPL) outing since their 10 September 2-1 loss to Tampines Rovers, a result which came after a 3-1 reverse by Geylang International a week prior.
The defending champions might have slipped to second behind Albirex Niigata in the eight-team SPL, three points adrift with four matches left to play, but Hafiz Nor remains unfazed.
“We acknowledge that we haven’t been at our best in the last two games, but all of us are determined to put an end to this streak,” said the 34-year-old, who will return to the side after serving a one-match suspension.
“We have been working hard in training and everyone is in good spirits. As long as we bring our A-game, I’m confident we can get the three points to keep our title hopes alive.”
Interim Head Coach Luka Lalić echoed Hafiz’s sentiments.
“The short break was useful for us to have some time off to recharge and regroup after two straight losses,” he said.
“We have had the chance to look back at the Tampines game – a unique situation with the injuries and suspensions that we had to contend with. At the end of the day, we failed to make our chances count and were made to pay for mistakes at the back.
“It is however something we are working on at the moment and we hope to fix it in time.”
The return of Hafiz and club captain Hariss Harun is a welcome boost for Luka, who is treating each of their remaining SPL matches like a final.
“It’s a different team when you have your captain as well as someone with Hafiz’s experience back,” Luka added.
“We are thinking positively and our focus now is to win every game from now in order to stand a chance to retain our title.”
With fellow title challengers Albirex in action against Hougang United on the same day, Hafiz hopes the Cheetahs can do the Sailors a favour by getting a result.
“Hougang are a team gunning for a spot in the AFC Cup next season and they have nothing to lose,” he quipped.
“Hopefully they can conjure something and make the title race more exciting. At the same time, we cannot underestimate Balestier who have home advantage and we have to do our part as well.”