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 By Kenneth Tan

Amri to use Indonesia experience to guide Tampines in ACL playoff

Jason Dasey and Dez Corkhill discuss Tampines Rovers FC's trip to Bali United on January 16th for their AFC Champions League playoff.

Tampines Rovers striker Khairul Amri is looking forward to a return to Indonesia as he aims to help the Stags overcome Bali United in the 2018 AFC Champions League (ACL) Preliminary Round on Tuesday.

One of a number of Singaporeans who moved to Indonesia eight years ago, Amri was a fans' favourite at Persiba Balikpapan and scored nine goals for the club in the 2010-11 season before being released due to injury.

The 32-year-old, who also scored nine goals in 2017, has kept in touch with football in the biggest Southeast Asian nation, with his knowledge possibly coming in handy for the Tampines.

"I saw some of Bali's matches online when they played my former team Persiba," Amri told ESPN FC. "Some of my friends and former fans tagged me on Facebook.

"I know they finished runners-up in Liga 1 last year and they really have a good squad. It's been some time since I played there, but I know what to expect and I can relate that experience to my teammates. It's certainly not going to be easy, but we have to fight."

Bali, coached by Indonesia legend Widodo Putro, have plenty of quality players in their ranks, such as Indonesia national team trio Stefano Lilipaly, Irfan Bachdim and Ilija Spasojevic.

And the club has pulled out all the stops in expectation of a partisan crowd at their 25,000-capacity home. A large screen will be provided outside the stadium for those fans who are unable to purchase tickets.

A tough task for Tampines was made even harder with the news that both foreign wingers Jordan Webb and Ryutaro Megumi are ruled out through injuries.

Jason Dasey speaks with Tampines Rovers general manager Desmund Khusnin to discuss the 2018 AFC Cup draw.

However, Amri remains adamant that the Stags can do the job while he looks forward to a reunion with Lililpaly.

The duo last met on international duty in the group stages of the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup. Amri scored a spectacular overhead kick to open the scoring for Singapore, but the former Dutch Eredivisie midfielder stole the show with a late volley to send Indonesia through to the knockout stages with a 2-1 win.

"It'll be great to see him again, but I have to say this is a different competition altogether and we're now playing for our clubs," Amri said.

"It's sad that Jordan and Megu are not available, but I'm sure coach Jurgen (Raab) will field capable replacements who will be ready for battle.

"We have a totally different squad this year without players like Izwan (Mahbud) and Shahdan (Sulaiman), but there are still senior players like 'Farra' (Mustafic Fahrudin) and Daniel (Bennett) to guide the new players.

"I heard that there's going to be a full-house. But the difficulty will be on them as we're going in as underdogs. For sure, we're going to give our best shot and try to bring a win back for our fans."

This will be the fourth time Tampines have participated in the ACL qualifiers, while Bali are making their debut in this competition -- with both teams trying to make Asia's elite club competition for the first time.

The winners will progress into the next stage to face Thai League side Chiangrai United away on Jan. 23.

Whoever prevails in that game will then face a final playoff away against Chinese Super League giants Shanghai SIPG on Jan. 30.

Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT

 

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