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Match Preview: Battered Eagles Urged to End Season on a High

Trailling by six points plus an inferior goal difference with two league games to go, Geylang International's race for Asian football is all but over as they have little hope of catching up with Asia-chasing Balestier Khalsa who are placed one spot above them in fourth.

Back-to-back lop-sided defeats to Albirex Niigata and the Tigers in recent weeks ultimately killed their continental dream.

But the Eagles should not take their foot off the gas yet as their fifth spot is far from guaranteed with the sixth-placed Cheetahs lurking two points behind.

Collecting three points against whipping boys and cellar dwellars Young Lions this Saturday (August 19) is no less than what the Geylang faithful expect from their team to avoid further embarrassment in what is an already disappointing campaign.

Like the Eagles' winning run against the Tigers prior to last weekend's heavy defeat, the Tampines-based side have also won four consecutive matches against the Under-23 squad and enter this home clash as favourites.

However, a deja vu of an upset is not unthinkable as the youthful Geylang side have the tendency of self-destructing this season by going down a player or two as a result of picking up unnecessary red cards.

Hence, it is imperative for head coach Noor Ali to instil discipline in his charges, ensure the team finish the game with 11 players, and get them to stay focused in bringing home the points.

While Noor and his men have their eyes trained on this Saturday's fixture, the club management have to cast their attention to 2024 and start planning their squad for next year, which coincides with the club's 50th anniversary.

As soon as the first transfer window was shut in March, fans had started to voice their concerns on whether the then freshly assembled players could compete in the league and achieve their goal of a top-three finish.

Without belabouring the points which have been covered in various parts of the Ultras Eagles blog, it suffices to say that the poorly thought out transfer strategy had resulted in not enough cover for each position on the pitch, dooming the Eagles' 2023 campaign from the start. The lack of squad depth subsequently gave Noor plenty of selection headaches when injuries and suspensions to key players piled up during the course of the season.

With next year's campaign reported to start in May instead of the usual February, the generous lead time means there is no good reason for the club hierarchy to bungle their squad planning for the new season.

Team news: Ahmad Syahir and Naufal Azman will no longer take part in the league campaign as they serve a two-match suspension for dangerous play in the Balestier fixture.

Similarly, Huzaifah Aziz and Vincent Bezecourt remain unavailable for selection due to season-ending injuries.

Player to watch: Iqbal Hussain - As his teammates collapsed around him in the 6-2 rout to the Tigers, the mercurial winger seemed to be the only one interested to put up a resistance and get the team back into the game. To his credit, his two goals made the scoreline less embarrassing than what it already was. Based on his recent performances, Iqbal looks to be on a mission to finish the season with a few more goals to his name.

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