The 2016 Malaysia Cup kicks off across the peninsula, from Selangor to Sarawak. Hardeep S. previews the first spread of matches lined-up that will determine whether Zainal Abidin Hassan's men can hold onto the trophy.
T-Team vs Johor Darul Ta'zim II
Tue July 12 | Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium | 9pm
Last meeting: JDT II 4 T-Team 1 (July 31, 2015; MPL)
Player to watch: Patrick Dos Santos (T-Team), Paulo Rangel (JDT II)
Billed as: Spirit versus talent
Summary: The match is expected to be interesting as both teams are currently performing respectably in their respective leagues.
Lying fourth in the Malaysian Super League (MSL), T-Team will go into the match as favourites to collect three points but the much-improved Johor Darul Ta’zim II (JDT II) are also eager to continue their momentum from their nine-match unbeaten run in the Malaysian Premier League (MPL).
T-Team have not made changes to their squad in the current midseason transfer window but JDT II have done so by offloading several fringe players and hiring new ones.
Brazilian defender Rafael De Jesus Bonfim is one of JDT II’s new recruits.
Although T-Team are a top-tier side, it is JDT II that have invested a lot on players this season. T-Team are having issues with funding as they are regarded as a feeder team to Terengganu but so far they have defied the odds with a small budget.
A great battle is on the cards between JDT II’s Paulo Rangel and T-Team’s Patrick Dos Santos who are the leading scorers of their respective clubs.
FFT prediction: T-Team 3 JDT II 1
Kedah vs Sarawak
Wed July 13 | Darulaman Stadium, Alor Setar | 9pm
Last meeting: Sarawak 1 Kedah 1 (Mar 12, 2016, MSL)
Player to watch: Liridon Krasniqi (Kedah), Junior Aparecido (Sarawak)
Billed as: Unsettled Kedah face Usop’s magic
Summary: Sandro Mendonca has returned to Kedah after undergoing treatment in Brazil for his back injury but he is still short in fitness.
But Kedah coach Tan Cheng Hoe could be tempted to field the attacking midfielder against Sarawak as the trainer continues his search for an ideal foreign striker.
Kedah have released Carlos Kahe and signed Thiago Fernandes from Felda United for the remainder of the season and Cheng Hoe hopes his inclusion will strengthen his team’s attack.
Kedah look disorientated internally and it could affect their performance against an inspired Sarawak.
The hosts could also find Sarawak’s defence a stumbling block as the visitors have beefed up their backline by signing Liberian international Teah Dennis as a replacement to Italian centre-back Davide Grassi.
FFT prediction: Kedah 1 Sarawak 1