Shawal, Safirul back for Singapore games vs. Lebanon and Bahrain
Singapore's upcoming opponents Lebanon have improved to the extent that they are now one of Asia's strongest teams, according to head coach V. Sundramoorthy.
The Lions will face the Lebanese in a home friendly on Thursday ahead of their next Asian Cup qualifier against Bahrain on Nov. 14.
"We needed a good opponent who is similar to Bahrain, so we arranged to play Lebanon in the warm up," Sundramoorthy told ESPN FC.
"Lebanon are one of the best teams in Asia at the moment; with a hard game under our belt, it will prepare us well against Bahrain."
With the 2017 S.League almost done and dusted, attention turns to Singapore's final two games of the year.
Lebanon are ranked 100th in the world, 25 spots above Bahrain, and 73 places better than Singapore.
Both games will be played at the 55,000-seater National Stadium at Singapore Sports Hub, instead of the 6,500-seater Jalan Besar Stadium where they have played the majority of their matches this year.
With just two points from their opening four matches, V. Sundramoorthy's side need to win their final two Group E games, and hope other results go their way, to qualify for the continental tournament for the first time since they were hosts in 1984.
The Lions began centralised training on Sunday night at Geylang Field, with around 30 players in the mix, which will be cut to a final 23.
The official squad list is yet to be announced, but ESPN FC understands that Geylang International duo Shawal Anuar and Safirul Sulaiman have earned recalls to the squad.
Despite improved performances using a 3-4-3 formation, a win has continued to elude the Lions in 2017.
Their last outing saw them fall to a last-gasp 2-1 defeat away against Turkmenistan a month ago.
"We always go out there trying to win our games and this will be no different," Sundramoorthy said.
"We competed well in Turkmenistan and were unlucky to concede in the last minute. We'll continue to work hard and, hopefully, we turn the corner soon.
"National Stadium's where I grew up playing and I only have fond memories of this place. We definitely need to the fans to back the team up and it should be a good atmosphere for the boys to go out there and play."
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT