MSL Spicy Questions of the Round: Is pressure off for LionsXII?

Darren Goon previews Round 19 of the Malaysian Super League by examining the key points of each fixture...

Will Selangor flourish again in the absence of Paulo Rangel?

Selangor vs. ATM | Friday June 13 | 8.45pm

Paulo Rangel will not be available this week following his sending off in Selangor’s 4-1 win over Terengganu. Normally you would expect the Red Giants to sweat buckets at the prospect of playing without their top scorer, but they showed that they could cope without him in the same Terengganu match as they scored more than one goal in a league game for the first time in two months. The timing for Mehmet Durakovic to give one of his many local strikers a pop up front could not be any better too, as they face relegation-threatened ATM, who are winless on their travels, picking up just two points from nine away games so far.

Will JDT extend their unbeaten home run?

JDT vs. Terengganu | Friday June 13 | 8.45pm

In a match-up pitting two of the top three teams on the league table, second-placed JDT will be confident of avenging their 1-0 defeat to the third-placed Turtles in March, as they are unbeaten at home and boast arguably the most exciting attacking combination in the league right now, with Argentines Jorge Diaz and Luciano Figueroa combining for nine of the team’s last 11 goals. JDT certainly look favourites to walk away with all three points with Terengganu’s form being less than stellar of late, as evident from their 4-1 defeat to Selangor despite having a one-man advantage.

Can the LionsXII appease the Jalan Besar faithful in the penultimate home game?

LionsXII vs. Sarawak | Saturday June 14 | 7.45pm

Without a doubt, the LionsXII have failed to match last season’s dominance at the Jalan Besar Stadium. They are capable of scoring goals, but they are also letting them in at an almost equal rate even with the return of their prodigal son, Baihakki Khaizan to the centre of their defence. Following their midweek defeat to Kelantan and a victory for Selangor, the Singaporean side’s hope of retaining their Super League title officially vanquished. With nothing to play for, the pressure is off for Fandi Ahmad’s boys, which could work wonders against the visiting Sarawak, who are alternating wins with losses in their last five matches. A strong finish to the league season will help build momentum for their Malaysia Cup campaign.

Are Pahang suffering from burnout?

Pahang vs. Kelantan | Saturday June 14 | 8.45pm

Despite winning the FA Cup last Saturday, Pahang were brought back down to earth with a 2-2 draw with ATM on Tuesday. And if the Gladiators were tough, a resurgent Kelantan boasting Francis Forkey Doe, Khairul Izuan, Brendan Gan and even Prince Tagoe – who made a ten-minute cameo against the LionsXII on Tuesday – will be an even bigger ask. Perhaps it was a bit harsh to schedule three games in seven days, but that comes with the territory when a team is challenging on multiple fronts. Although fatigue is threatening to affect Pahang, they are not expected to make major changes to their side. Faizol Hussein, rewarded for his cup final heroics, put in a good shift, but this round he might make way for Hafiz Kamal, who should be well rested by now.

Is it all but over for PKNS?

T-Team vs. PKNS | Saturday June 14 | 8.45pm

Things have gone downhill at PKNS since the departure of Nazmi Faiz Mansor to Selangor and the “resting” (ah, such an elegant term for gardening leave) of Wan Jamak Wan Hassan. They have lost their last four away games, a losing run that could continue against T-Team who, for all their foibles and shortcomings in attack, can brag about having the fourth-best home record in the league, losing only to Pahang and beating JDT and Kelantan this season. A defeat to T-Team coupled with a win for Perak in another game will surely all but seal their Super League fate.

Will Fazrul Hazli Kadri strike against his former team again?

Sime Darby vs. Perak | Saturday June 14 | 8.45pm

Although his team has been impressive at home lately, scoring 11 goals in total against Kelantan, Sarawak, and PKNS in their last three matches at the Selayang Stadium, Sime Darby head coach Ismail Zakaria will not be taking Perak lightly. The Bos Gaurus have risen off the foot of the table in recent weeks with four wins in five games, mainly due to head coach Abu Bakar Fadzim’s tactics and the synergy between their new foreign players and the locals. With that in mind, Ismail could be tempted to name Fazrul Hazli Kadri, who has not started a league game for Sime Darby since April 5, in the starting line-up, as the former Perak winger scored twice in the reverse fixture earlier this season to record a 2-0 win.

(Picture Credit: Syahrul Azam Zahari @