Albirex reclaim Singapore crown but are Tampines ready for Asia's best?

Albirex Niigata (S) were crowned champions of the 2020 Singapore Premier League season on December 5, 2020. Football Association of Singapore

Albirex Niigata (S) returned to the summit of Singapore football over the weekend after a 1-0 win over Hougang United was enough to see them crowned champions of the 2020 Singapore Premier League season.

The title was the White Swans' fourth in five as they finished three points above Tampines Rovers and a two ahead of Lion City Sailors. The result made amends for last season's disappointing fourth-place finish.

In a campaign that was -- like everywhere else around the world -- severely affected by COVID-19, the league managed to complete a reasonable semblance of a full season.

Here is a look at how the season played out and a look at what 2021 could hold for Singapore football.

Resurgent Albirex back at their best

Having dominated the competition for three consecutive years, last season saw Albirex endure a downturn as they transitioned from a fully-Japanese team to one that counted promising Singaporean youngsters in their ranks.

After some growing pains, the White Swans were back at their best as they racked up ten wins from 14 matches while continuing to bring in impressive talent to Singapore including Tomoyuki Doi and Reo Nishiguchi, who combined for half of their 32 goals.

Albirex have stated their commitment to growing local prospects, but their ability to balance that with putting out a team capable of challenging for honours bodes well for their future.

ACL qualification no scant consolation for Tampines

Looking to be the first local side to claim the title since 2014, Tampines fell just short on the final day of the campaign but -- due to Albirex's ineligibility to represent Singapore in continental competition -- will feature in the AFC Champions League group stage next season.

It will undoubtedly be a challenge coming up against the continent's biggest sides but the Stags did boast the league's best defence with just 11 goals conceded, which will come in handy given they can expect to come under fire in the ACL.

They will, however, need to address their reliance on Boris Kopitovic and Jordan Webb in attack, with none of their other players netting more than two goals this term.

Can highly ambitions Lion City Sailors be satisfied with Year 1?

The start of the 2020 season saw the birth of Lion City Sailors from the ashes of former giants Home United. The new club immediately announced their lofty ambitions of becoming a force not only on the domestic front, but also in Asia.

No expense was spared as coach Aurelio Vidmar assembled a star-studded side -- boosted by the mid\season acquisition of Croatian marksman Stipe Plazibat -- and they ultimately finished as the league's top scorers with a prolific 44 goals in just 14 outings.

Ultimately, there were just one too many pivotal games where the Sailors were unable to grind out a result and, while third place and AFC Cup qualification is a decent achievement, becoming champions must be the target for next season.

Brunei DPMM missed chance at title defense

Take nothing away from Albirex claiming the title, but defending champions Brunei DPMM would have made a run at the title had they not been barred from the competition.

Unable to make suitable travel arrangements because of COVID-19 pandemic upon the restart of the campaign, the decision was made for DPMM to withdraw.

There is still plenty up in the air ahead of 2021 but, should DPMM return, expect the two-time champions to be back with a vengeance.