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Clash of the titans

April 1, 2011 - 3:59pm

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S-LEAGUE

TAMPINES v HOME

MAKE no mistake about it, this is the clash of the titans.

Tonight's match between Tampines Rovers and Home United promises to be an entertaining encounter between the two best strike-forces and two of the best defences in the league.

Even their track records have been distinctly similar – overcoming a draw in their first match of the season to maintain no-loss records.

So what gives?

Look no further than these two Singaporean showdowns.

LIONEL LEWIS v ALEKSANDAR DURIC

WRITE him off at your own peril, as Hougang United, Albirex Niigata and Tanjong Pagar United have found out this season.

Even at 40, Duric is still banging them in for fun, with four goals in five games.

However, in each of the three games these teams faced off last season, the Bosnia-born striker drew blanks.

He said: "I do think Lionel and Hassan are two of the best goalkeepers in Asia, but before I worry about Lionel, I have to get past their monster defenders Valery Hiek and Kenji Arai first."

Indeed, the Protectors have four clean sheets in six games, and Duric could be in for a long night as the lone out-and-out striker.

But he said: "It takes some getting used to. Last season I think I took six games to score my first goal for Tampines. But I'm already used to playing alone up front.

"We have to win this game, or at least get a point, because it is important not to let them build a lead so early in the season."

As the last line of defence, Lewis' preference is to approach this match like any other.

The 28-year-old said: "Aleks has proven himself and I respect him, but if I don't concede any goals, we won't lose, and we will stay at the top of the table."

HASSAN SUNNY v QIU LI

THE duo are firm friends during their time as international teammates, and also when Qiu Li was in Tampines over the last three seasons.

However, both players asserted all pleasantries will be put aside tonight.

The China-born striker fired the first salvo when he reminded The New Paper that he scored a second-half hat-trick against Hassan in his debut season with Sinchi FC in 2006.

The 29-year-old said: "Definitely I've learnt a thing or two about Tampines during my time there and I hope to use that to my advantage.

"But the flip side is that Home have quite a few new players and we are just starting to gel, while Tampines have had basically the same players for the last three seasons, so their understanding is already there."

Results from last season suggest Home have the upper hand, with an aggregate of 4-0 over three games.

Yet, Hassan insists history will not repeat itself and hopes for a clean sheet as a birthday present.

Turning 27 tomorrow, he said: "He knows me, and I know him, but it's a brand new game.

"Qiu Li doesn't run everywhere but he can shoot from anywhere, while (Frederic) Mendy is dangerous in the box.

"But with the help of my goalkeeping coach Narong (Saiket), we have worked at eliminating some mistakes from my game and I believe my defenders (Park Yo Seb, Benoit Croissant and Seiji Kaneko) can make my work easier."

Although it is still such an early stage in the S-League, Qiu Li is adamant the team that wins this fixture should go on to win the league.

He said: "I do think these are the best two teams in the league this season and whoever wins could well ride on the confidence of the result all the way to the end."

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