SINGAPORE – After nine months and 13 rounds of the Singapore Premier League (SPL), the title race is still wide open for Albirex Niigata and Tampines Rovers as the season reaches its climax.
Only one point separates them at the top and with all matches starting at 5.30pm on Saturday (Dec 5), even where to bring the SPL trophy will decided at the last minute.
Leaders Albirex travel to face Hougang United while the Stags host Geylang International at Our Tampines Hub with up to 200 fans allowed into the grounds.
The 15kg, 67.5cm trophy will therefore be kept at the Football Association of Singapore’s office at the Jalan Besar Stadium while the scores at both games are monitored.
A decision will be made 20 minutes before the final whistle on where to send the trophy, handcrafted in 1996 when the S-League (rebranded to the SPL in 2018) was launched, for the prospective champions.
The coronation will be unusual in another aspect.
Due to coronavirus-enforced safe management measures, the medals and trophy will be placed on separate tables for the players and captain to pick up to reduce unnecessary contact.
A separate platform will be set up for the winning team to stand and lift the trophy.
The winners will receive $150,000, while the runners-up and third-placed team get $80,000 and $40,000 respectively.
Albirex will seal their fourth title in five seasons if they win at the Hougang Stadium, or match Tampines’ result against Geylang.
The Stags, seeking their first championship since 2013, cannot afford to lose and must hope the Japanese outfit drop points.
Goal difference could also come into play. If Albirex lose by two goals to Hougang and Tampines get a draw, the latter will be crowned champions.
Where to watch
Tampines v Geylang Singtel TV 112/ StarHub Ch202, 5.20pm
Hougang v Albirex Ch111
Lion City v Balestier Ch 113
Tanjong Pagar v Young Lions (not available on cable)
All four matches will be available on SPL’s Facebook and YouTube pages from 5.20pm.