Star names promise plenty in 2022 Singapore Premier League season with Lion City Sailors still the team to beat

The 2022 Singapore Premier League campaign kicks off on Friday with plenty of intrigue surrounding a handful of fresh imports arriving with impressive credentials.

While it remains to be seen how an ex-Premier League man, a two-time AFC Champions League winner and a stalwart of European football will fare, the one thing that seems certain is that defending champions Lion City Sailors will once again be the team to beat.

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In only their second year of existence after they arose from the ashes of the team formerly known as Home United, the Sailors claimed a maiden SPL crown in dramatic fashion -- pipping 2020 champions Albirex Niigata (S) to the title by just two points on the final day of the season.

While they boast quality all over the park, one of the key factor behind Lion City's success has been their prowess in the final third having scored a staggering 103 goals in just 35 matches over the past two campaigns.

And their already formidable attack will only become more fearsome this year with the addition of South Korea international Kim Shin-wook, a two-time Asian club champion with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Ulsan Hyundai.

Standing at 1.96 metres, Kim already made an instant impact with two goals at the weekend to hand his new team a 2-1 win over Albirex in the Community Shield, and his supply should only be enhanced by the impending addition of Belgian winger Maxime Lestienne.

Lestienne arrives at the Sailors with no shortage of European experience, having previously plied his trade in Serie A, LaLiga and Eredivisie, and should add further guile to a side already boasting established Singapore internationals such as Hariss Harun, Shahdan Sulaiman, Gabriel Quak and Hassan Sunny.

After their runners-up finish last term, and having won in four of the previous five seasons, Albirex are likely to be the Sailors' main challengers in 2022 but -- as is the case each year with the satellite team of the Japanese club bearing the same name making sweeping changes to its playing personnel -- their true credentials will remain an unknown quantity at least until the campaign gets underway.

One new face in the Albirex ranks that will need less of an introduction is however that of Tadanari Lee, formerly on the books of Southampton and the scorer of the dramatic extra-time winner that handed Japan the 2011 AFC Asian Cup.

Like Kim, Lee wasted no time in announcing his arrival having won and converted a penalty in the White Swans' Community Shield loss to Lion City last Saturday.

While by no means one of Singaporean football's traditional powerhouses, Hougang United are a team that have made huge strides in recent times with a couple of third-place finishes over the past three years.

Similarly, Hougang will also be hoping the capture of a marquee name will improve their on-field fortunes in the form of Brazilian playmaker Andre Moritz, who was part of the Crystal Palace outfit that won promotion to the Premier League in 2013.

Another team looking to challenge for top honours are five-time champions Tampines Rovers, who may not have made as many waves in the transfer market but who continue to boast a side with substantial quality with the likes of Kyoga Nakamura, Yasir Hanapi and Boris Kopitovic.

But for now, the reigning champions look to be the favourites in what is shaping up to be an enthralling year ahead in the Singapore Premier League, with the likes of Kim, Lee, Lestienne and Moritz all promising to add genuine star quality to the competition.