Johor Darul Ta’zim vs Felda United: Can the visitors do it again?
JDT’s Achilles heel
With the league leaders set for an early top-of-the-table clash with JDT, Felda will be hoping they can prove to be the Southern Tigers' bogey team once again.
However, it must be noted that those defeats always came in the Malaysia Cup and never in the league. As it stands, JDT's last league defeat back at home came against the LionsXII, on 7 April 2012.
Even more impressively, JDT had won all their home matches in the league last season and this winning run was only stopped by Selangor, who held the defending champions to a 1-1 draw on the opening day of the 2016 season.
Like Selangor, Felda play a compact game in the middle of the park and the likes of Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Juan Martin Lucero may find themselves with limited chances if Hariss Harun and Safiq Rahim do not win the midfield battle.
Mario Gomez’s rotation policy has come good in recent weeks, with four wins across three competitions. The Southern Tigers have scored a whopping 17 goals in the last four matches and conceded just one.
Felda, the early league leaders, are the only team with a perfect record in the MSL. The Fighters are looking strong with Zah Rahan Krangar dictating play in the engine room and Francis Forkey Doe has not wasted any time to fit in after replacing hitman Thiago Augusto Fernandes on deadline day.
The match also sees the return of Hadin Azman to JDT after being sacked in April 2014. The youngster, who saw his contract terminated due to theft accusations, has earned the trust of Irfan and scored a brace in the 2-0 win over T-Team on Saturday.
JDT left Safiq, Lucero, Nazrin Nawi, Amirul Hadi Zainal and Mahali Jasuli out of the starting line-up against Terengganu on Saturday as part of their rotation policy.
Safiq and Lucero are expected to return to the line-up but it is anyone’s guess if Amirul, Nazrin and Mahali are handed starts. Gomez has the equally talented Azinee Taib and S. Chanthuru to call upon as well.
Felda supremo Irfan does not enjoy such luxury in rotating players and just last week, he noted that his players were already looking tired from back-to-back matches.
He does however, have a full squad to choose from as there are no notable injuries ahead of the clash.
Key battle: Hariss Harun vs Zah Rahan Krangar
What do you get when you pit one of the league’s most creative midfielders against arguably the best holding midfielder in Southeast Asia?
This is what those at the Larkin Stadium can expect to find out when the two teams clash on Tuesday.
Krangar is a joy to watch and he is difficult to mark in the middle of the park, often unlocking defences with splitting passes. He is arguably the most important piece in Felda’s attack and it will be up to Hariss to stop him.
The Singapore international often provides a shied to JDT’s already strong back-four, marshalled by Brazilian Marcos Antonio. His presence as an insurance to the back four should help to counter Felda’s threat.
Fact and figures
- JDT have not lost a home league match in 41 outings, dating back to April 2012.
- Felda United are the only side to win in Larkin since PKNS defeated JDT 2-0 in the 2013 Malaysia Cup campaign
- In the last ten matches between the teams, JDT have four wins to Felda’s three.
- Felda’s Hadin and Krangar have two goals each in the MSL so far, while Diaz is the only JDT player to score more than once (two) in the league.
JDT 1 Felda 1: Both teams are on form but JDT do not look like losing for the third time running.
Main photo: Felda United