FA Cup semi-finals, 1st leg | Darulaman Stadium, Alor Star | Saturday April 16 | 9pm
Soccer pundits are labeling it as a mismatch as they do not rate Kedah highly, although the 2015 Malaysian Premier League champions have been churning out respectable results after their return to the Super League.
Despite having a hectic schedule, Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) have maintained an impeccable record of being unbeaten in 16 matches (in regulation time) in all competitions.
Mario Gomez’s rotation policy has benefitted JDT and the coach will start his best players after resting some in the impressive 4-1 win over Laos’ Lao Toyota in Wednesday’s AFC Cup match in Vientiane.
Except for Syazwan Zainon, who is out with a groin problem, Kedah have no other injury problems.
Right-back Ariff Farhan Isa has returned to fitness after an injury but he may not start as Rizal Ghazali was impressive during his absence in the right-back position.
South Korean Bang Seung Hwan will return to the starting line-up and partner captain Khairul Helmi Johari in the heart of defence but midfielder Baddrol Bakhtiar could be benched after a poor outing in the recent 2-2 draw with Penang in a Super League match on April 9.
Tan has reminded his players to be focused throughout the match and also to avoid conceding away goals. Kedah are not going to hold back and Tan Hoe pledged that his side will fire on all cylinders for goals.
Under-fire Carlos Kahe has something prove as fans are unhappy with the Kedah striker’s contribution. although he has netted six times this season.
Tan is also concerned with the form of his goalkeeper Farhan Abu Bakar, who has been letting in soft goals of late.
Kedah will be aiming for their first win after the recent international break following three straight draws.
JDT are playing confidently and Kedah need something special to turn the tables.
If Kedah want to win, they must find an effective way to stop in-form midfielder Safiq Rahim and strikers Pereyra Diaz and Juan Martin Lucero from dictating the pace of the game.
Key battle: Liridon Krasniqi (Kedah) v Safiq Rahim (JDT)
The midfield battle with be an interesting one as both teams possess two of the best playmakers in the Super League.
Krasniqi’s vision, ball control and range of passing are second to none. The former Kosovo international has the ability to create chances and also provide assists to his teammates.
The 24-year-old will be in the mood after netting a brace in the 2-2 draw with Penang in a recent Super League match. Depending on tactics, Krasniqi could be given the role to mark national captain Safiq Rahim.
Safiq is a natural leader and an excellent playmaker. He is regarded for his creative abilities and penchant for scoring or assisting on set-piece opportunities. The 29-year-old, who has netted eight times in all competitions, also enjoys a good understanding with strikers Pereyra Diaz and Juan Martin Lucero.
Fact and figures
- JDT had a run of 12 straight wins in all competitions before the 2-2 draw with Kelantan in a Super League match on April 8.
- JDT have scored 15 goals in the FA Cup with Pereyra Diaz being the leading scorer with five compared to Kedah’s 12.
- Pereyra Diaz is JDT’s leading scorer with 11 goals while Kedah’s top scorer Carlos Kahe has netted only six time.
Kedah 3 JDT 2. With both teams having quality in attack, fans could see many goals in the match with Kedah holding a slight advantage at home.
Main Photo: Kedah