Singapore book Hong Kong friendly before key Asian Cup qualifier

Singapore will warm up for next month's crucial 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Turkmenistan with a home friendly against Hong Kong on Aug. 31.

Both games will be played at Jalan Besar Stadium, instead of the Sports Hub, which hosted the recent International Champions Cup (ICC) involving Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.

The Turkemistan game in Group E on Sep. 5 is crucial for the Lions who have earned only one point from their opening two qualifiers against Bahrain (0-0 away draw) and Chinese Taipei (2-1 home defeat).

Hong Kong, who will face Malaysia at Hang Tuah Stadium in a Group B Asian Cup qualifier on Sep. 5, will be a good warm-up test. They are 24 places higher than Singapore in the FIFA rankings at 145th, and are familiar opponents for the Lions, with the sides meeting six times in friendly matches since 2012.

Singapore's solitary win against the East Asians came five years ago when they triumphed 2-0 at Jalan Besar.

They last faced off at Hong Kong's Mong Kok Stadium in last October, with the Lions falling to a 2-0 defeat.

Hong Kong are progressing steadily under the tutelage of South Korean coach Kim Pan-Gon, with their last result being an impressive 1-1 home draw with North Korea in June. Singapore's opening two results see them lie bottom of Asian Cup qualifying group E going into their third match.

It makes their second home game against 137th-ranked Turkmenistan a must-win if they are still harbouring hopes of making the tournament proper for the first time since 1982 when they were hosts.

It remains to be seen if head coach V. Sundramoorthy will spring any surprises in his squad selection, but the fit-again Tampines Rovers' duo of Fazrul Nawaz and Khairul Amri are expected to be recalled.

Fazrul has already recorded a goal and an assist after returning in June after an absence of 10 months, due to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury that saw him miss last November's AFF Suzuki Cup.

The Lions have struggled to score under coach Sundram, recording just eight goals in last 16 matches since the 51-year-old took over in May 2016.