Live streaming match piala sumbangsih on this saturday at Larkin Stadium 2018.
Domestic football in Malaysia begins with the same two teams that closed the 2017 campaign in the Malaysia Cup final. Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), the Malaysia Super League (MSL) winners won on that night in a one-sided contest.
The Southern Tigers will be eager to get their 2018 off to a good start and not only pick up the three points, but to regain the Sultan Ahmad Cup trophy they lost to Kedah on penalties at the very same ground just over 12 months ago.
Kedah have a point to prove after barely putting up a fight when the last time the both sides met. They have a new coach in Ramon Marcote and have made several additions to the squad, most notably forward Pablo Pallares and defender Alvaro Silva but it remains to be seen how they will perform.
JDT on the other hand have welcomed back 2016 MSL Golden Boot winner Jorge Pereyra Diaz, Hariss Harun and 36-year-old Luciano Figueroa in addition to new signings La’Vere Corbin-Ong and Adam Nor Azlin and Syafiq Ahmad.
One important aspect of both teams are that they have kept a bulk of their players for several years and there will be a sense of familiarity on the pitch.
JDT have little injury concerns and the only problem Ulisses Morais would have is a selection headache.
Left-back Corbin-Ong is expected to start after missing the AFC Champions League qualifiers registration deadline while Figueroa too could return after recovering from tonsillitis. Malaysia Under-23 star Safawi Rasid is also back in the squad.
Kedah, however, are expected to be without Sandro Da Silva and Silva as they are reportedly still in recovery. It’ll be interesting to see if Marcote has a role for young Akhyar Rashid.
Both teams have yet to sign their Asian import players.
KEY BATTLE: NATXO INSA VS LIRIDON KRASNIQI
This could be the most interesting battle on the pitch on Saturday. Both are players with excellent close control of the ball and love dictating play.
Krasniqi was the central-midfielder everyone in Malaysia was raving about until Insa arrived from Levante in the 2017 mid-season window. He had a Malaysian passport too.
Having been a shadow of his usual self when the two teams last met, Krasniqi will be on a mission to set the record straight.
Insa, however, has shown that he is in a class of his own in Malaysia. The return of Hariss Harun from a loan spell will also give him more freedom to roam forward from midfield.
THE COACHES: ULISSES MORAIS VS RAMON MARCOTE
This match is more about Marcote than Morais because the former takes charge of his first game and expectations are high that he could take the Red Eagles to the next level.
He made a good impression with the fans when he was among Tan Cheng Hoe’s coaching staff in 2015, even temporarily taking charge of the squad in their Malaysia Cup final run when Tan left to complete his AFC Pro License badge.
Now the results will do the talking for Marcote as he is the main man calling the shots.
Morais has been with JDT since mid-way through last season and he has got to know the players better now. The Champions League qualifier defeat to Muangthong United exposed frailties in the squad but the Portuguese isn’t going to face opponents as strong as the Thai in domestic competitions.
FACTS AND FIGURES
- Saturday’s clash will be the 11th meeting between the teams since 2013 with JDT prevailing on five occasions.
- Kedah have only recorded one win from open play against JDT since 2013, but they have emerged successful in two penalties shootouts.
- Kedah are looking to win the Sultan Ahmad Shah Cup for the fourth time, and their first in back-to-back-years.
- Three of the last five winners were decided on penalties.
JDT 2 Kedah 0: The hosts have too much firepower for a Kedah side that has a few absentees.
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