Three matches into the new Malaysian Super League (MSL) season and the LionsXII have made a decent start with a win, a draw and a loss.
But what head coach Fandi Ahmad finds more pleasing, ahead of tonight's clash with league leaders Felda United at the Selayang Stadium, is his side's new-found aggression.
Speaking after yesterday's one-hour training session at ITE College Central, he said: "What's most important is that we have more spirit, teamwork and guts (this season). You need to have guts to battle it out, to pick up the second balls. In this team, we need every player to work because we don't have any stars."
Fandi said he was heartened by the plucky displays of right-back Nazrul Nazari and winger Gabriel Quak, who have made efforts to step up the physical side of their game this year.
Nazrul, a winger by trade, has shone in defence while Quak, who plays on the right of a three-pronged attack, has shown a willingness to track back and help out the defence.
Said Nazrul, 24: "It's something I'm trying to improve, to be more aggressive and to stand up for the team, especially against the foreign players who are more physical."
With the bevy of young players in his squad, Fandi hopes the team can build on this fine start to the season.
Said the tactician: "I've always said Singapore players mature late because of national service.
"This season, Madhu (Mohana), Nazrul, Gabriel and Firdaus (Kasman) have all improved a lot.
"They are more mature and can withstand the pressure."
Fandi added it was imperative his team keep up this pluck in their match against Felda.
"They have defenders who will spray the passes for their forwards to chase and we need everyone to work hard and close them down," he reiterated.
The LionsXII face a defensive headache with first-choice centre-back Afiq Yunos (gout) doubtful, and starlet Safuwan Baharudin on loan at Melbourne City.
Yesterday, Fandi played midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin alongside Madhu in a two-sided training match. He said: "If Afiq is not 100 per cent, I won't risk him.
"Our defence is really slim now. I just pray there will be no more injuries."
This article was first published on Mar 7, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.