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Match Preview: Out-of-sorts Eagles Wary of Sailors' Payback

Updated: May 13, 2022

Photo credit: Idi Bakhtiar

Geylang International return from their 28-day league break to kickstart the second round of the league campaign against league leaders Lion City Sailors this Saturday (May 14).

Under-pressure head coach Noor Ali and his charges hit the reset button as they seek to revive their disappointing start to the season, with the Tampines-based side languishing second from bottom of the Singapore Premier League table.

The stunning 1-0 victory over the Sailors in the season opener proved to be a false dawn as the Eagles subsequently underwent a six-game winless run.

This mirrored the 2021 season when the team failed to win their next eight games after beating Tanjong Pagar United 2-1 at the start of the season.

For the second round of league fixtures, the two-time league champions surely have to attain two objectives: (1) clinch their second league win as soon as possible, and (2) exceed the five points accumulated in the first round.

Their quest towards fulfilling those goals face a major hurdle in their next encounter against the defending champions Lion City Sailors.

The star-studded squad - comprising mostly of Singapore national team players and quality foreign signings - have found the winning groove domestically and are pulling away from the chasing pack at the summit of the league table.

Currently four points clear from their nearest challengers Tampines Rovers, the in-form Lion City Sailors are keen to avenge their defeat in the previous meeting and extend their winning streak to five games.

A mammoth task lies ahead for the Eagles. The heavy underdogs would have to conjure the fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude displayed in the first few games of the season to avoid a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Sailors.

Team news: The Football Association of Singapore's decision to call up Zaiful Nizam to the SEA Games football squad has been questioned by many Eagles fans, as Lion City Sailors second-choice keeper Izwan Mahbud could have been a viable option. The Geylang captain's services between the sticks will be sorely missed for the game against the Sailors.

Geylang International's injury woes in defence have not eased. Fadli Kamis is sidelined for a few months with a cruciate ligament injury and Abdil Qaiyyim remains injury prone. With notable defensive absentees, Noor Ali is relieved to have central defender Faizal Roslan available for selection after the latter completes his two-game suspension.

Noor also has mounting injury concerns upfield with the participation of Khairul Hairie, Fareez Farhan, Yeo Hai Ngee and Suria Prakash in doubt.

Player to watch: Zulfairuuz Rudy - The off-season signing from Tampines Rovers is likely to deputise in goal with first-choice goalie Zaiful Nizam on national duty at the SEA Games. The understudy's performance would be heavily scrutinised as it is hoped that he could prevent the Sailors from scoring a deluge of goals. If Zulfairuuz could earn an improbable clean sheet, he would be remembered by the Ultras Eagles as the King of Jalan Besar for many years to come.

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