Albirex Niigata (S) target 27th straight win at home vs. Hougang United
Defending champions Albirex Niigata (S) will be looking to keep up their 100 percent record at Jurong East Stadium when they host Hougang United on Thursday night in their final S.League home game of the season.
The White Swans have been absolutely unplayable at Jurong East, with an incredible record of 26 straight wins in all competitions, stretching back to Nov. 2015.
Leading nearest challengers Tampines Rovers by six points, Kazuaki Yoshinaga's side are in the driving seat, and will need just three wins out of their last four matches to be sure of retaining their crown.
However the 49-year-old was having none of it when suggested his side are already champions-elect.
"I do not think the title is ours yet," he told the official S.League website. "I know the football is round, and anything can happen. I will only consider doing my best until all the matches are over.
"We are targeting to end the season with 60 points, to score 60 goals and concede only 14 goals."
Albirex are on 50 points, having scored 54 goals and conceded just 13.
Having not played in last two-and-a-half weeks after defeating Home United over two legs to reach the Singapore Cup final, all the White Swans could do it to arrange friendly matches to maintain their match fitness.
Hougang will be a tricky prospect for them, as they defeated the Cheetahs just once in three encounters in 2017.
After a 2-0 triumph at Jalan Besar in April, they proceeded to suffer a shock 2-1 loss at Hougang in July before another 0-0 draw at the same venue in the League Cup group stages.
However, Yoshinaga remained confident in their quest for another three points to get closer to the finish life.
"I am not particularly worried because the players have improved and grown throughout the season," the former Shimizu S-Pulse coach said. "I believe the boys will give their all for the win.
"Preparation has gone well and we are ready for this match. We had prepared carefully because the opponent is a team led by a head coach with excellent tactics."
Hougang are targeting to finish in the top four after a disappointing season which saw them fail to achieve their preseason objectives of winning at least a trophy.
The Cheetahs are now in sixth place, four points behind both Warriors FC and Geylang International, with four games to go.
Coach Philippe Aw wants his side to cut out the defensive errors that led to their 2-0 loss to Home United over the weekend.
"All it took was a goal from a corner that changed the game. It was the same thing when Home visited us earlier in April," the 39-year-old said.
"Generally, I don't think we were outplayed.
"It's disappointing that the goal through a long ball behind our defence, from which we conceded a corner.
"We still want to aim for fourth and it's still possible. There're some tough matches coming up, but we're going into each game trying to win."
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT