DPMM FC coach Vjeran
Simunic knows his team
will have their work
cut out for them in
League Cup final against
Picture: BT file
Defending champions DPMM FC have a shot at winning a record third Singapore League Cup crown tonight, though they'll have to go up against a Balestier Khalsa side brimming with self-belief after losing only one of their last 17 games.
Promising a "dramatic" clash, DPMM FC coach Vjeran Simunic knows his men have their work cut out for them in a final that promises to be both physical and entertaining.
Despite their form, Balestier have less "big-game" experience, with tonight's tie at the Jalan Besar Stadium their first major cup final though they did clinch the second-tier plate event last year.A win for Brunei's most popular club, who won the inaugural edition in 2009 and made it a double last year, will mean that this season hasn't been a complete disaster after starting the campaign with such promise.
DPMM FC were beaten to the S-League title by one point last season last season but are currently 10th in the 12-team table, with the Tigers five spots above them in fifth.
Injury worries to three of the DPMM FC's four imports Portuguese striker Joao Moreira, Brazilian defender Tales Ricarte dos Santos and Lithuanian striker Arturas Rimkevicius combined with the suspension of veteran defender Pg Sallehuddin Pg Hj Damit means that the visitors will not be at full strength tonight.
All this, coupled with DPMM FC's current run of S-League results, looks to have has taken a toll on Simunic over the last few months and he sounded none too confident when asked to talk about his team's biggest game of the year.
"I hope we have a little chance," he said.
"We have many players injured but I don't want to talk about the line-up.
"I have something secret up for tomorrow.
"We play with 10 Bruneians and one import, and Salleh is suspended so that's a big problem... But I think we've survived because of our big motivation and the atmosphere (within the team) is fantastic," the Croatian insisted.
Simunic and his Australian counterpart Darren Stewart have already faced off three times this year, though the results provided little indication as to how tonight's match might turn out especially in a cup final where the form book is thrown out the window.
The sides were drawn in the same League Cup group and their June 6 encounter ended with Balestier enjoying a 2-1 result.
Their most recent outing in the S-League on Aug 25 needed a late wonder goal from dos Santos to claim a 1-1 draw, with their first S-League clash in April seeing DPMM FC beat the Singaporeans 1-0.
"This is the decider," insisted Stewart, who went on to praise DPMM FC's "magnificent" striking partnership of brothers Shahrazen and Adi Said who he felt had a big impact on their 1-0 win over Woodlands Wellington in the last-four.
"We had a lot of players who couldn't play for various reasons in that game in August, including Cunningham (striker Paul Cunningham), but we have a full squad available now.
"Going by the league table... I'm not saying we're going to win it and I can't say they're favourites because they won it twice.
"But in terms of consistency, we are better.
"They have that experience playing cup finals but we've got leadership and if we play like we did against Albirex in the semis (where Balestier edged Japanese outfit Albirex Niigata (S) FC 1-0) it's going to be near impossible to beat us.
"If we play with the same commitment like that game, I'll have nothing to do.
"They are tough, but we are tough as well."