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Match Preview: High-flying Eagles Dazzle Fans

Photo credit: Geylang International FC

Tomoyuki Doi's brilliantly taken free kick, which wrapped up Geylang International's 7-1 mauling of Young Lions on May 25, has left fans wanting for more from their swashbuckling side.

That landslide victory - the second largest winning margin in the club's history - sent a strong message of intent to their Singapore Premier League (SPL) rivals on their top-three ambition. After three games played with two draws preceding the Young Lions win, the unbeaten Eagles soared to fourth spot, and are currently two points away from the league's frontrunners Tampines Rovers.

Geylang's season so far is more impressive considering that they are presently the highest scoring side in the SPL with 13 goals, which is two more than their Tampines neighbours.

Ultras Eagles capo Terence Yip attributes to the Eagles' astute transfer strategy for their recent successes - a stark contrast to the early part of last season where their recruitment approach was criticised as haphazardly executed.

"We have signed good local talents and quality foreign players like Ryoya Taniguchi and Tomoyuki Doi," he explains. "Sora Tanaka has also impressed me, with his ability to run down the flanks and supply good crosses."

As with any much-changed squad such as Geylang's, time is needed at the start of a campaign for newly assembled teammates to familiarise with each other and settle into a distinct playing rhythm.

Diehard fan Abdul Rahman likes what he sees as the season progresses. "The team chemistry gets better with every game. More possession and pass completion are on show."

"I look forward to attractive football as players adapt to each other's style of play," he shares with excitement.

When asked which area the mighty Eagles can improve in the matches ahead, Terence and Rahman give a unifying response: defence.

While the free-scoring side had no qualm plundering goals against their opponents and putting their noses in front during the opening matches, they are let down by a leaky backline that has yet to record a clean sheet this season. Of particular concern was the manner in which the rearguard surrendered their once unassailable leads, as seen in the draws against Balestier and Tampines.

Geylang's poor defensive showing coincides with the absence of Japanese centreback Rio Sakuma, who has been nursing a knee injury since the season opener.

"Without Sakuma, I don't see a leader taking charge and organising the backline. Hopefully this will improve with his imminent return to first team action," shares Terence optimistically.

Ahead of the upcoming clash against Hougang United this Friday (June 14), the Eagles faithful are relishing the chance for their beloved team to climb to the summit of the SPL table, should they beat their out-of-sorts northeastern rivals.

Tipped by bookmakers to finish above the Eagles in the league, the winless Cheetahs currently languish in eighth after suffering two back-to-back losses against Lion City Sailors and Albirex Niigata followed by a draw against Tanjong Pagar United.

With their opponents in such an underwhelming form heading into the contest, the time is prime for head coach Noor Ali and his men to swoop in for another three points in the bag.

Team news: While Huzaifah Aziz remains sidelined for the long term due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury, Geylang is hopeful on the availability of Rio Sakuma to shore up the defence.

Hairul Syirhan and Joshua Peirera will return from their Singapore duties after earning a call-up to the Lions' 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign. Given that both players saw no minutes against South Korea and Thailand, the duo should be able to slot straight into the starting 11 against Hougang.

Player to watch: Iqbal Hussain - The 2023 Ultras Eagles Player of the Year has been overshadowed by his free-scoring foreign teammates, and has not quite lit up the stage as he did last season. Primarily deployed on the right and left flanks in the three opening fixtures, fans hope that it won't be long for him to start chipping in the goals.

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