Footballing Weekly: Albirex, Sailors set to battle for SPL title

New season begins this week, with two clear favourites and several other clubs who could be competitive

Albirex Niigata (Singapore) winning the 2022 Singapore Premier League title. (PHOTO: Facebook/Albirex Niigata Singapore)
Albirex Niigata (Singapore) winning the 2022 Singapore Premier League title. (PHOTO: Facebook/Albirex Niigata Singapore)

SINGAPORE — The first match week of the 28th Singapore Premier League (SPL) season will kick off on Friday (24 February) with 2021 champions Lion City Sailors taking on Tanjong Pagar United at Jalan Besar Stadium.

With Brunei-based DPMM FC rejoining the fold, making the SPL a nine-team league, this season will have a 24-match schedule in a triple round-robin format. Each club will play their eight other league rivals three times.

Defending champions Albirex Niigata (Singapore) will seek to win their sixth league title in seven seasons, and while they have another new set of Japanese players coming in from their parent club, they can never be discounted from title contention with their trademark consistency.

Already, they have shown in last Sunday's 3-0 Community Shield win over Hougang United that they will continue to showcase a high level of teamwork and technique under veteran coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga.

The Sailors, last season's runners-up, will want to put things right after their late-season collapse which cost them their SPL title defence.

Singapore's only privatised club have the resources to bounce back from a disappointing season, but they too have undergone plenty of personnel changes, not least the arrival of new head coach Risto Vidakovic. Can their expensively-assembled squad gel and get going behind the Bosnian to mount a credible challenge against Albirex?

While those two clubs are the favourites to challenge for the SPL title, other clubs have also made strides in be contention.

DPMM will figure to be in contention after sitting out the past three seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tampines Rovers, with their top striker Boris Kopitovic, are always tough to beat. Hougang, fresh from their Singapore Cup triumph last season, are also looking to build on that winning momentum.

It all adds up to an intriguing season, with plenty of interesting match-ups.

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