SINGAPORE - When Home United midfielder Yasir Hanapi drew the number "10" for his team at the RHB Singapore Cup draw at Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday morning, rival fans from other S.League teams whooped in delight.
Yasir's pick means that the Protectors will take on Cambodia's Nagacorp in the first round of matches, which will take place from May 25 to June 1.
Home's rival fans are rejoicing because last year's Singapore Cup winners are placed in Pool B of the tournament which, on paper, looks tougher than Pool A.
If the Protectors are to mount a successful defence of the trophy which they have won a record six times, they could potentially have to come up against Albirex Niigata and Brunei DPMM, who have already beaten them convincingly in S.League meetings this season.
In addition, there is the threat of the unknown posed by this season's five invited teams from around the region.
Philippine sides Loyola Meralco Sparks and Global FC showed their quality when they progressed to the Singapore Cup's quarter-final and semi-final stages respectively last year.
Nagacorp and fellow Cambodian side Svay Rieng currently occupy the top two spots in the Cambodian domestic league, while third debutants, SHB Champasak, are the champions in Laos.
The Singapore Cup will be contested in a knockout format, with the winners advancing to the following round.
One team each from Pool A and B will make the final.
Home coach Lee Lim Saeng, however, is bullish about his team's chances of retaining the Cup.
A day after seeing his team demolish in-form Warriors FC 4-1 in a Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League game, the South Korean said: "I believe in my players and that we have a quality side.
"We had unfortunate losses against Albirex and DPMM in the S.League this season but I believe that my players have learnt from those games.