At their best, Philippe Aw knows his Home United side are good enough to challenge for the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League title.
And he believes there is no better way to prove it than by beating Tampines Rovers at Bishan Stadium tonight in a huge clash between traditional S.League giants and perennial title contenders.
The Protectors have not made the best of starts to the 2016 season, twice throwing away a lead in a 2-2 draw with Warriors FC before falling to a shock 1-0 loss to Hougang United.
Their cause has not been helped by the fact that, having had a bye last week, they return to action against an in-form Tampines who have netted eight goals in their past two victories, against Bangladesh outfit Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi in the AFC Cup and Hougang in the league.
Aw and his men would have been reminding themselves of a similar situation 12 months ago, when a winless Home headed into their third game of the season against a heavily-fancied Stags team, and recorded a remarkable 2-0 triumph.
Aw does believe that football sometimes works in funny ways.
"Every game is a new game and we know things are not going to be the same," he told The New Paper.
"But last year in that third game, nobody gave us a chance and we sprang a surprise.
"Deja vu happened so many times last season and, if it happens again on Thursday, so be it."
Home and Aw received plenty of praise last year for the attractive brand of football they played, but the Protectors' lack of consistency - especially at the start and the end of the campaign - ultimately saw them finish a disappointing sixth in the final standings.
The new season may only have just begun, but the Protectors' tactician is aware they can ill afford another slow start, if they are to deliver on their title challenge.
"Last year, we started slow, went on a good run and then had a lull period again towards the end," he acknowledged.
"This year, the league is going to be more competitive and we can't afford to keep dropping points, but the good thing is that we know we've played well in the first two games, apart from finishing our chances.
"We're confident that, if we start to focus a bit more and put the ball in the net, we'll be thereabouts… A positive result on Thursday and we're back in it."
Much has already been made about how formidable the Tampines attack is, with Singapore international Fazrul Nawaz and Irish striker Billy Mehmet being supplied by ex-Arsenal and Liverpool man Jermaine Pennant and Canadian livewire Jordan Webb.
Home captain Juma'at Jantan is well aware how potent the Stags' attack is, although he believes his side's forward unit are a match for V Sundramoorthy's side, if they are at their best.
The Singapore international said: "Everyone's been talking about Pennant and Webb, but it's all about the team… Even players like midfielder Izzdin (Shafiq) are important for them.
"We have to look at the bigger picture and, 11-v-11, we can definitely cope with them.
"Luck hasn't been our side in the first two games, but we have to put that aside and move forward, ideally with our first three points of the season on Thursday."
This article was first published on March 3, 2016.
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