SINGAPROE - BRUNEI DPMM v BALESTIER KHALSA
(Wednesday, 8.15pm, Bandar Seri Begawan)
He paused for a couple of seconds, then heaved a sigh.
Brunei DPMM coach Vjeran Simunic's hesitant reaction, when asked if his side could finish in the top six this season, was telling.
It has been a difficult year for the Croat.
"In sport, especially football, you must always hope," he said philosophically. "And when you have hope, you still need to fight."
Just eight months ago, he bagged the S-League's Coach of the Year gong after DPMM ran eventual champions Tampines Rovers all the way in the title race.
His side, who were making a return to professional football after sitting out more than two years due to a suspension imposed by Fifa, even lifted the StarHub League Cup trophy in July last year.
They were expected to push on and launch another title charge this season, but it went pear-shaped for them early on.
Less than halfway through the season and crucially, almost a month before the mid-season transfer window, the DPMM management decided to axe three of the team's five foreign players.