Geylang International boss Noor Ali wary of Cup specialists Balestier

Geylang International and Balestier Khalsa will be looking for some much-needed joy when they kick off their Singapore League Cup campaign with a Group B match at Toa Payoh Stadium on Saturday night.

In what has been a challenging year for Geylang, they lie only sixth on the nine-team S.League table, with just five wins from their opening 13 games.

Meanwhile, the Tigers are one place and 11 points behind them in the standings, having lost 10 out of 13 league matches so far.

So attentions will now turn to the Singapore League Cup, providing both teams a chance to start with a clean slate in a new tournament -- with a chance of silverware.

This opportunity is not lost on Geylang coach Noor Ali, although he insists it will not be a simple task to qualify for the semifinals, despite Group B being widely regarded as easier than Group A. Noor has now officially taken over from Hasrin Jailani, who stepped down in June after 18 months in charge.

Apart from Balestier, the Eagles will also lock horns with Tampines Rovers and Brunei DPMM FC, while Group A pits four of the top five S.League teams -- Albirex Niigata (S), Home United, Warriors FC and Hougang United -- against one another.

"Of course, we want to get off to a good start by winning our first game," Noor told the S.League's official website.

"There are no easy games in the league or cup, but anything can happen in football. Just look at the surprise results in the S.League earlier this week -- Hougang beat Albirex and Balestier almost caused an upset against Home.

"We are definitely in a tough group with two [former] cup [winners] in Balestier and Brunei DPMM.

"They have little to play for anymore in the S.League this season and I'm sure they will be going all out to try and win this competition to salvage some pride."

On paper, Geylang will enter Saturday evening's clash as favourites. But, despite their poor results in 2017, Balestier have not exactly been playing badly, and will be expected to produce yet another battling display.

Noor added: "They are a good team and are organised in their play.

"While they are a relatively young side, they have some experienced players in the team like Raihan [Rahman], goalkeeper Zaiful [Nizam], and their Myanmarese trio [Aung Kyaw Naing, Kyaw Zayar Win and Nanda Lin Kyaw Chit] are decent as well."

In previous years, Balestier have often defied the odds in cup competitions, having won the League Cup in 2013 and Singapore Cup in 2014. So it would be foolish to write them off even before a ball is kicked.

"Going into this group, all of the opponents are going to be difficult," Tigers' boss Marko Kraljevic said.

"We are going to need to work very hard, but I believe we can do it. We are just missing that little cutting edge, but that's football.

"We are going to play two games at home and one at Jalan Besar Stadium, which could give us some advantage when he play on home soil.

"Also, Balestier have always done well in cup competitions so we are going all out to reach the semis."

Saturday's other Group B clash sees Tampines take on DPMM at Jalan Besar.