|Photo: Aundry Gan|
The 41-year-old revealed that the Cheetahs management yet to talk to him regarding plans for 2013, adding that talks will only start after their match against the Harimau Muda is finished.
In the immediate term, however, he is likely to miss out on the services of creative playmaker Ante Barac due to a troublesome calf problem, while Fazli Jaffar may miss out with a back injury sustained against DPMM.
Bacina can however consider taking some tips from his Malaysian counterpart Ong Kim Swee, who is no stranger to developing young players.
Ong’s notable experience in Malaysian football and meticulous preparation ensured the Young Tigers punched above their weight in their maiden season in the S.League.
With his pre-season target of finishing among the top five already in the bag, the Malacca-born man was not keen on his side resting on their laurels.
“If you take a good look at it, we have an average age of 21, and we were without key players for most of the season,” he examined.
“The boys showed good character in terms of fighting against the big boys, who have four to five foreigners. There’s nothing else I can ask of them.
“Even though we’ve surpassed our target of finishing in the top five, now we have chance to go third. Thus it’s a challenge for the boys to finish as high as possible.”
Ong’s side will be short on numbers again, though, with Thamil Arasu, Wan Zaharulnizam Wan Zakaria, Affize Faisal and Ariff Farhan all rated as ‘doubtful’.
Only 15 players will therefore be available for this clash, a marginal improvement over the 13 they had against Geylang United last week.
Their schedule since returning from the Vietnam Newspaper Cup triumph looks tight, as they take Hougang on five days after beating Geylang, before facing league leaders Tampines Rovers another four days later in a key title-decider.
With so little time available for rest, Ong admitted that his charges are getting minimal preparation for this game, having stayed around their hotel area after their arrival in Singapore on Sunday noon.
“There’s nothing much we can do,” he commented.
“After the Geylang game, we went back to Kuala Lumpur the next day. The players had a Hari Raya Haji break on Friday, and then we had a light session before coming over to Singapore.
“With a tight schedule, it’s not a matter of training hard. It’s more of how to get the boys into good condition and to recover well.”
Knowing how tricky this task against Hougang will be, the 41-year-old called on his players to maintain the foundation of their game that has brought wins in their last two league outings.
“I know Hougang have only lost once in their last ten matches,” he pointed out.
“They’ve improved tremendously under a good coach, so it’s not as easy as others expect.
“I’ll watch how the situation develops during the match to decide what we should do, but importantly, it’s a matter of patience. We need to keep discipline, just like how we played against Balestier (Khalsa) and Geylang.” (SOURCE)