The FourFourTwo Preview: LionsXII vs Felda United

Malaysian Super League| Jalan Besar Stadium | Sun 2 Aug | 7.45pm

Billed as

Chance to edge nearer to the top three.

The lowdown

LIONSXII FORM

* LionsXII 2-1 Perak FA (MSL)

* LionsXII 3-0 Kelantan FA (MSL)

* PDRM FA 2-1 LionsXII (MSL)

* ATM FA 1-1 LionsXII (MSL)

* LionsXII 3-1 ATM FA (MSL)

FELDA UNITED FORM

* ATM FA 0-4 Felda United (MSL)

* Felda United 2-2 Sime Darby (MSL)

* Sarawak FA 0-2 Felda United (MSL)

* Selangor 1-0 Felda United (MSL)

* Felda United 4-4 Selangor FA (MSL)

 

LAST FIVE MEETINGS

* Felda United 0-0 LionsXII (MSL, Mar’ 15)

* Felda United 3-1 LionsXII (Malaysia Cup, Sep’ 14)

* LionsXII 0-0 Felda United (Malaysia Cup, Aug’ 14)

* LionsXII 4-0 Felda United (MSL, Jul’ 13)

* Felda United 0-0 LionsXII (MSL, Mar’ 13)

After a hiatus of three-and-a-half weeks, the 2015 Malaysia Super League (MSL) is back and going into its final stretch.

Just like the rest of the 11 MSL teams, LionsXII will have to contend with a tight schedule which will see them play seven matches in 20 days, concluding their season with a home game against Sime Darby on August 22nd.

The Singaporeans will hope to carry on where they left off following successive home wins against Kelantan FA and Perak FA before the break. The six points ensured they went up to sixth in the 12-team table, just four points adrift of third-placed Perak and 10 behind pace-setters Pahang FA.

With four of the seven remaining matches to be played at their beloved Jalan Besar home ground, Fandi Ahmad’s boys are starting to believe that they have a genuine chance of making at least the top three.

First up will be a tricky clash against promoted side Felda United to test those credentials. Should Selangor fail to beat PDRM FA on Saturday, the 2013 MSL champions will go up two places to fourth with a win.

On the other hand, the Fighters have been a revelation since returning to the MSL as they have collected seven wins and four draws in 15 games to currently occupy fourth spot.

Similar to the LionsXII, they will hope to continue their good form from before the break when they enjoyed a three-match unbeaten run. Convincing wins against Sarawak FA and ATM FA sandwiched a 2-2 draw against Sime Darby to leave them eight points adrift of Pahang.

The visitors should be brimming with confidence after the 4-0 thrashing of ATM where they scored all four goals in 21 second-half minutes. Should Perak lose against Kelantan a day before, a win at the Lions’ den could see them climb into the top three.

Team News

With LionsXII playing arguably their best football at the moment, coach Fandi is not likely to tinker with his favoured starting eleven.

That should see the back four of Nazrul Nazari, Madhu Mohana, Shakir Hamzah and Hafiz Sujad in front of keeper Izwan Mahbud. Shakir looks set to keep his place at the heart of defence, although Zulfahmi Arifin is now fit for selection after recovering from an ankle lay-off.

Faris Ramli and Gabriel Quak should be lining up on the wings, with the midfield triangle of Izzdin Shafiq, Safuwan Baharudin and Shahdan Sulaiman providing the ammunition for lone forward Khairul Amri to finish the job. The 11 players should be high in confidence, after acquitting themselves admirably against English sides Arsenal and Stoke City in the Barclays Asia Trophy two weeks ago.

Similarly, three players from the Felda camp are returning on a good note after representing a Malaysian XI in their shock 1-1 draw against Liverpool a week ago. Playmaker Zah Rahan Krangar played almost 80 minutes, while wingers Ahmad Syamim Yahya and Christie Jayaseelan came on to provide fresh legs in the second half.

The trio have played key roles in Felda’s lethal attack this season which saw them plunder in 28 goals in 15 matches, making them the third-best attack in the league behind Selangor FA and PDRM. Although last season’s top scorer Edward Junior Wilson was shockingly released in the April transfer window, his replacement Thiago Augusto Fernandes is seemingly adapting well to life in the MSL, having scored three goals so far.

With veteran Indra Putra Mahayuddin and Zambian forward Ndumba Makeche also in good scoring form (with four and five goals respectively), the LionsXII defence could be in for a stern test.

Key Battle: Khairul Amri vs Shukor Adan

It seems incredible that the LionsXII are in the top half of the table despite their chief striker Amri scoring just two goals in the league so far. The 30-year-old has been a workhorse upfront, creating opportunities in the final third with his off-the-ball running and intelligent link-up play.

However strikers are always judged on goals and Amri himself will admit that he should be scoring a lot more often. Coming into this final stretch of the season, it is vital that he regains his scoring touch that made him one of the most feared attackers in this region.

Of course firstly he will need to get past Felda captain Shukor Adan who will be lining up at the heart of their defence. The 35-year-old has been enjoying a renaissance of sorts as a defender in the past two years after playing in midfield for almost his whole professional career and certainly will not be an easy customer.

Khairul Amri will be hoping he can rediscover his touch in front of goal against the Fighters.

The Coaches

In Jalan Besar’s away dugout is the experienced Irfan Bakti, who has spent the last couple of decades coaching various clubs in Malaysian football – bar a short spell with Indonesia club Persipura Jayapura in 2007.

The 64-year-old, who was part of the Malaysian squad that played in the 1976 Asian Cup, have failed to find much success with clubs like Perlis FA, Terengganu FA and Selangor until taking charge of Felda back in December 2013.

He has since oiled the Fighters into a cohesive unit which is more than capable of competing against the top sides in the MSL.

Facts and Figures

·       LionsXII have the upper hand in terms of the head-to-head records between both teams. Both sides have faced each other seven times in history, with the Singaporeans triumphing three times and Felda winning just once. The other three matches ended up in draws.

·       However the LionsXII have yet to win in the last three encounters – being held 0-0 at home and losing 3-1 away in the Malaysia Cup group stages last year, before another stalemate at Selayang earlier in the season.

·       The LionsXII are unbeaten in ten games at home this season – winning five and drawing two in the league, while winning three in the FA Cup.

·       On the other hand, Felda has collected most points on the road amongst the 12 teams – with five wins and two losses.  

FourFourTwo prediction – Kenneth Tan: A really tough one to call between two in-form sides. Choosing the easy way out then – a 2-2 draw!