Chinese Taipei familiar with Jalan Besar surface, eye upset vs. Singapore

Singapore's Asian Cup qualifying opponents Chinese Taipei will hold no fears about playing at Jalan Besar Stadium because of their familiarity with synthetic surfaces back home.

The two nations, separated by only three spots in the FIFA rankings, will face off on Saturday night in a Group E match on the road to the regional showcase in United Arab Emirates in 2019.

Chinese Taipei's domestic league is held on similar surfaces to Jalan Besar, with 13 of their 23-man squad being home-based players.

"An issue for us is those who play in the domestic league have played on artificial pitches so they should have no problems," their Japanese coach Kazuo Kuroda told The New Paper.

"But most of our foreign-based players play on natural turf, so they may not be as used to Jalan Besar."

It will be a first meeting between the sides since Jalan Besar hosted a free-flowing 3-2 victory for the Singaporeans in a 2011 friendly.

But the Taiwanese have grown in confidence since then, and held Suzuki Cup semifinalists Vietnam to a 1-1 draw in March before losing their opening Asian Cup qualifier 3-1 to Turkmenistan.

"The team have improved a lot since 2011, in terms of attack, defence, discipline, preparations, and the way we approach games," Kuroda said.

"Individuals who have played in foreign leagues would have learnt about what it takes to succeed as a professional footballer and as an import, and that can only be good for the team."

Chinese Taipei's foreign-based players are scattered between the Chinese second division and the lower echelons of the Belgian, Spanish and Thai leagues.

Captain Chen Po-liang, a midfielder who plays for Hangzhou Greentown in China, says the squad have been training on the synthetic pitch of Jurong East Stadium since Tuesday.

"You can tell how important this match is to our football association when they call up almost all the players from abroad," he said.

"I feel we are a better team than we were in 2011, but Singapore have just drawn against Bahrain, and we know they are defensively well-organised, so we can't underestimate them.

"I don't think we are favourites, but we are definitely going for the win." Chinese Taipei are 160th in the FIFA rankings, compared to Singapore at 157th.

Singapore are hoping to play in the Asian Cup finals for the first time since 1984 when they hosted the event.