Tampines Rovers aim to turn their Hub into 'fortress' against Albirex
Tampines Rovers meet Albirex Niigata (S) three times in the space of 10 days, starting with a Singapore Cup quarterfinal first-leg tie at Our Tampines Hub on Thursday night.
The second leg will be played at Jurong East Stadium three days later, before they face off again at the same venue in an S.League clash next Saturday.
The trilogy of games is pivotal in their quest to win a double this season, as they are nine points behind Albirex, with two games in hand in the league.
Tampines will surely hope that history does not repeat this year, having ended 2016 empty-headed, despite standing a good chance of claiming the treble of the S.League, Singapore Cup and AFC Cup at this point of last season.
Midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman emphasised on the importance of not looking too far ahead in their quest.
"It may sound like a cliché, but the mentality now is just to take one match at a time and to concentrate on ourselves," the 29-year-old told the official S.League website.
"The most important thing for us is to keep the consistency and continue winning matches."
While their AFC Cup and League Cup campaigns ended in the group stages, the Stags are doing well in the S.League where they have suffered just one loss in their last 10 outings.
Shahdan believes the team are in good spirits as they gear up for another tough clash against Albirex.
The White Swans have got the better of them in two head-to-head encounters this season. They won 2-1 in the Community Shield at the National Stadium and 4-1 at Tampines' old stomping ground at Jurong West.
The Japanese outfit also triumphed 2-0 when the two sides met in last year's Singapore Cup final.
"I think the good form comes from the understanding from what coach Jurgen wants from us," Shahdan explained. "We're translating his ideas onto the pitch, which can only be a good thing.
"The team has a good camaraderie now, and we're really looking forward to the rest of the season.
"[Albirex] are tactically very disciplined, and are very fast on the break. And of course, they have quality players who can hurt us.
"Strategy-wise for us, it is obviously to minimise what they do best, which is leaving gaps in between lines, and be careful of their fast breaks."
Marking their return to Tampines after a six-year absence with a comfortable 2-0 win over Brunei DPMM, Jurgen Raab's side will be hopin for more of the same in this game.
Getting a significant advantage is crucial as they play the second leg at Jurong East, where Albirex have won their last 23 matches in all competitions.
"Playing on a new pitch is always tough as we need time to adjust, but it's nice to be back where we belong with all the fans that supported us," said Shahdan, who converted a penalty during that win against DPMM.
"It's important to make our home a fortress to win titles, so hopefully we can find form here and make it difficult for visiting teams to take points off us."
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT