YOUNG Tigers A will attempt to return to winning ways in the S-League without several key players due to national call-up and injuries when they meet Hougang United at the Yishun Stadium today.
Coach Ong Kim Swee's squad have been reduced to the bare bones with only 16 fit players to choose from as the squad's depth will be tested like never before.
With defenders Mahali Jasuli and Fadhli Shas training with the senior national team ahead of tomorrow's international friendly against Sri Lanka and Amer Saidin injured, Kim Swee is forced to field a makeshift side against mid-table Hougang.
Syazwan Tajuddin and Shahrul Saad will be paired off for the first time in central defence with Affize Faisal Mamat and Nazirul Naim Che Hashim filling in at fullback.
The midfield and forward line too will feature changes as winger Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor and striker Ahmad Hazwan Bakri are on national duty while the likes of Gary Steven Robbat, Irfan Fazail, Fandi Othman, Wan Zaharulnizam Wan Zakaria and Amirzafran Nadris are on the crocked list.
Add to that long-term absentees of Izzaq Faris Ramlan, V. Kavichelvan and Syahid Zaidon, it is no wonder that Kim Swee is being hopeful rather than optimistic of the team's prospects against Hougang.
"Whenever we have players missing either to national team duty or to injuries, it creates opportunities for others to play. We still hope to field our best tomorrow (today) but the players must use this chance as a base to prepare for the AFC Under-22 Championship qualifying," said Kim Swee before leaving for Singapore yesterday.
Kim Swee was referring to bit-part players Izuan Solahuddin and Ferris Danial Mat Nasir, who should relish the rare opportunity of featuring in the first eleven.
"With a lot of players injured, the others will have to work extra hard. The absence of key players will allow me to test others like Izuan and Danial. Syazwan and Shahrul have not played much either and this is the first time they will be playing together as a pair," added Kim Swee.
In a congested table in which the top-six are only separated by five points, last week's 2-0 defeat by leaders Balestier Khalsa was only the second for Tigers in nine matches which left them in fifth spot on 17 points, only four off the top with a game in hand. By Devinder Singh