Stopping Stipe Plazibat is not the only item on Cheetahs' agenda
Hougang United's hopes of sinking the big-spending Lion City Sailors in their Singapore Premier League (SPL) clash today could boil down to how well they keep a tight leash on their former striker Stipe Plazibat.
The SPL's leading marksman with nine goals will be facing his former side for the first time since joining the Sailors in September, but Cheetahs coach Clement Teo has devised a strategy to nullify the 31-year-old Croat at the Bishan Stadium.
"Naturally, we know his strengths and how he plays," Teo told The New Paper.
"We have spoken about it (a plan) and we hope to put the shackles on him tomorrow. That said, the game is not about the individual, but the team.
"We cannot just look at stopping one player, we have to worry about the other nine outfield players as well."
While stopping Plazibat will be instrumental to their chances of winning, Hougang's work at the other end will be just as significant, after a 0-0 draw with Tanjong Pagar United last Sunday.
Teo had envisaged his "SSS" strike force - Shahfiq Ghani, Sahil Suhaimi and Shawal Anuar - to fill the void left by Plazibat.
But he has now lost Sahil for the rest of the season due to a knee injury, while Shahfiq remains doubtful after receiving a knock against the Jaguars.
"We still have enough firepower and options to cope for the rest of the season," said Teo, who suggested that he may even play defender Anders Aplin up front if necessary.
Scoring has not been an issue for the Sailors since the Oct 17 resumption of the SPL; they hit the back of the net on 11 occasions in just three games.
Pivotal to that has been Plazibat, who bagged braces in the Sailors' wins over Geylang International (4-0) and the Young Lions (5-0).
On facing his former side, Plazibat said: "We are all good friends, but you need to put emotions aside and be 100 per cent professional.
"There is no additional pressure tomorrow because every game is very important, we already see every game as a cup final as we aim to win the title."
Sailors coach Aurelio Vidmar added: "There won't be added pressure on Stipe, it is just another game... He will be doing what he normally does, putting in a big effort... and scoring goals."
- Lion City Sailors v Hougang United
- Tampines Rovers v Young Lions
- Tanjong Pagar United v Geylang International
* All games at 7.45pm. Live on StarHub TV Ch 201/202/204 & 1 Play Sports' Facebook