SINGAPORE - They have an admirable 20-match unbeaten home record, but the LionsXII will not be kicking off their first home game this season at Fortress Jalan Besar.
The artificial pitch is being returfed and The New Paper understands it will be ready only late next month or early February.
While the LionsXII play their first league game against Malaysia Cup winners Pahang in Kuantan on Jan 17, in a match that also serves as the Charity Shield, the defending Malaysian Super League champions will be hosting DRB-Hicom in a firstround FA Cup encounter on Jan 21.
The Football Association of Singapore could not respond to TNP's queries by press time, but it is understood that the match could be held at Bishan Stadium.
Over the last two seasons, the LionsXII made full use of their familiarity with the Jalan Besar pitch. In 35 league and cup games played there, they won a whopping 25 times, with seven draws and just three defeats, the last of which came against Johor FC on July 14 last year.
Hence, there is a worry that their home advantage could be blunted by a change in venue, especially as the pitch at Bishan Stadium is known to be patchy and bumpy.
However, both LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad and captain Isa Halim believed they will overcome it.
Fandi said: "I don't think it will make too much difference... We will be training and playing on natural grass during our pre-season in Indonesia."
Isa added: "We definitely enjoyed the support of the home fans at Jalan Besar over the last two seasons.
The main difference between Jalan Besar and other stadiums is how close the fans are to the pitch.
We can hear them cheering us.
"I don't think we will have problems adjusting to playing on natural grass, but regardless of which stadium we play in - Bishan or Jurong West - we hope the fans will still come down because we really need their support."
The situation could affect two more matches, as Selangor are scheduled to visit on Jan 25 for an MSL game.
If the LionsXII progress to the second round of the FA Cup, they could have a home match against Perak or Pahang on Feb 4. Fandi is confident his team will be ready to switch back to Jalan Besar once it is ready.
"We will have to adjust again because the new artificial pitch will have a different feel to the old one," said the 51-year-old.
"The good thing is we have a maximum of just three fixtures in February, so we have time to get used to the new pitch. By then, we definitely intend to make Jalan Besar a fortress again."
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