In their opening match today at the Barclays Asia Trophy (BAT) 2015, they have the unenviable task of coming up against Arsenal – one of the top football clubs in England.
Great to pit his wits against Arsene Wenger
But the Singapore XI manager, V Sundramoorthy (Sundram) is far from daunted by the prospect of coming face-to-face against Arsenal’s tactical mastermind – Arsene Wenger. Said Sundram, “It would be great to pit my wits against Wenger. He is one of the top managers in the world and so to compete against him would be a great experience. I will cherish every moment of it.”
He added, “We watch them every week on TV and they play a very attractive passing football game – sometimes even passing the ball straight into the goal mouth. They have very talented players with many internationals in their squad. So that means for us, the boys must be very alert and fully ready to conquer whatever dangers Arsenal will pose to us during the match.”
Not planning to park the team bus in front of the goal
But they are not planning to park the bus to counter Arsenal though. Said Sundram, “We will go out there and play entertaining football. But we will try and limit the space and do not give them the time on the ball. We must also not concede early – to help with our morale and to give us the chance to try and win this game.”
Singapore’s heroic goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud – who had made 18 magnificent saves against Japan recently in a World Cup qualifier – is secretly hoping to hit top form this evening too. He said, “It will be an honour standing in the tunnel with Arsenal and there will be some nervous moments in me. But I will give my best on the pitch. I have seen Arsenal on TV and they have a lot of top-class attacking players. I don’t know about the record and how many saves I will make, but we shall see about that.”
Arsenal are also looking forward to meeting the Singapore XI
Arsenal too, are definitely relishing the challenge of playing the Singapore XI – inside the brand new National Stadium. Said Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker, “Everyone is really looking forward to playing in Singapore’s new stadium. None of us have ever played there before and there will be a couple of uncertainties. But we are fully focused on preparing for this game and are also looking to getting a good test against some good sides, during this pre-season.”
However, Arsene Wenger admitted to knowing nothing at all about the Singapore XI team that they will be up against. He said, “Honestly, I do not know anything about them, even now. But I have worked in Asia before and most Asian teams I have encountered are mobile, fast-paced and highly disciplined. So I expect this Singapore team to be the same.”
Singaporeans will have a key advantage in terms of the heat
Sundram also admitted that the Singapore team will have a key advantage against Wenger’s mighty Arsenal though – because they are used to the hot and humid climate in Singapore.
Said Sundram, “I feel that if you are coming from Europe, like Arsenal, it can be difficult to sustain the full 90 minutes of competition. However, this is a friendly competition though so the rules may be different – I only hope that the number of subs per match are kept to three – to give us a chance to pull through it.”
Heat will also have an impact on Everton
The heat in Singapore will also have an impact on Everton’s players, according to their manager Roberto Martinez. His Toffees side are up against fellow English Premier League side, Stoke City, in their BAT opening match today.
Said Martinez, “It will be interesting to see how we and Stoke adapt to the conditions. The heat and humidity are definitely different to what we are used to back home in England. I am looking forward to facing opposition whom we know so well – under totally different climatic conditions.”
He added, “Stoke though are a team that play with real confidence and belief. So tomorrow we should see a good game of two sides, with both teams to be going really strong at the ball.”
Winning the BAT 2015 is not the only thing on their minds
And while Everton are certainly aiming to win the BAT 2015, winning is not the only thing on their minds though, according to Martinez. He said, “When you come to a pre-season tournament like this one, there is the extra spice and you want to go out to win, unlike a pre-season friendly match. But at the end of the pre-season, it is ultimately all about how ready you are for the upcoming season ahead.”
His fellow counterpart, Stoke manager Mark Hughes also agreed. He said, “To win the BAT 2015 will be a good start to our club for the new season. By playing high quality opposition, this will bring us up to speed quicker and the competitiveness amongst the teams would be good here. We are also looking forward to training and playing at the new Singapore National Stadium and the two games that are to come.”
He added, “And Everton are definitely a good team too. In the Premier League last season, we may have beaten them twice but it’s going to be a different game this time round. So we hope that we can do again, what we did against them last year.”
But at the same time, Stoke though, who arrived in Singapore last week, still do feel that they have a slight advantage over the Toffees, who only got here on Monday. Said Hughes, “We have been training well and we are ahead of Everton in terms of recuperation from the long flight and coping with the jet lag.” So in this way, Hughes is secretly looking forward to a Stoke win – and thus, the likely chance of meeting the resurgent Gunners in the BAT 2015 final.
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