These are worrying times for Tampines Rovers.
They've lost twice in a row, shipping eight goals in the process - hardly the form becoming of the champions of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League.
Tampines coach Salim Moin isn't worried about his team's dip in form, but he wants his side to "wake up" and start winning again.
Said Salim: "My players need to be responsible for their mistakes.
"When you score and win, you can pat yourselves on the back.
"But, when you concede goals and lose, the whole team must work together, help one another out and fight in the next game."
The scorelines in their back-to-back defeats - 4-2 to Hougang United in the league and 4-0 to Hong Kong side Kitchee in the AFC Cup - suggest vulnerability in defence.
When asked if he was worried about his back four being exposed by Balestier Khalsa tonight, Salim said: "No, I'm not.
"I will admit that I saw the first loss coming, it was about time.
"We had a lapse in concentration and Hougang really punished us.
"Against Kitchee, they just played better than us, and all I can say is that we were too lethargic."
He attributed the lack of understanding between his defenders to the need to tinker with his back four in the past two matches.
Against Hougang, Tampines utilised only three defenders - Anaz Hadee, Norihiro Kawakami and Abdil Qaiyyim.
Then, against Kitchee, they stuck with Kawakami and Anaz, but added Shariff Samat and Jufri Taha.
Salim said: "It's not that I want to reshuffle my back four, but I had to because some of my defenders were tired and weren't at their best."
He wants his charges to get back to winning ways against Balestier at Clementi Stadium tonight.
The Stags are in second place, with five wins and one loss. A win will see them knock Brunei DPMM, who thrashed Harimau Muda 5-0 at home on Friday, off the top of the standings.
He said: "This is a great chance for us to bounce back and get back to the top.
"We have a break from the AFC Cup. So, we can fully concentrate on the league now, with Balestier coming up next and Woodlands next week.
"It's time for us to show the other teams that the champions have just woken up from their sleep."
Tampines resume AFC Cup duties against Nay Pyi Taw on April 22 at Jalan Besar Stadium.
Meanwhile, Balestier, who are still without the injured Park Kang Jin, sit eighth in the league table, with two wins, two draws and two losses.
Their last game ended in a 2-1 defeat by Home United.
Tigers coach Marko Kraljevic is desperate to get a win.
He said: "We need the win badly. The other teams are getting ahead of us, and we need to win to get back to challenging for the title.
This article was published on April 13 in The New Paper.
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