MSL Spicy Questions of the Round: Will Baihakki Khaizan improve the LionsXII’s fortunes?

Craig Morraies previews Round 16 of the Malaysian Super League by examining the key points of each fixture...

Can the Elephants stomp back to winning ways? 

Johor Darul Takzim vs Pahang | Friday May 16th | 8:45pm
After suffering a rare home defeat last week, it’s vital for Pahang to get three points this week to maintain their title challenge. However, they might not find it too easy, as their opponents will be none other than star-studded Johor Darul Takzim (JDT). Having played one more game than their Friday’s rivals and with just a few points separating them, Pahang know that a win will give them some breathing space and keep up the pressure on current table toppers Selangor. After opting to try a different centre defensive partnership last week, it will be interesting to see if Pahang coach Zainal Abidin Hassan will revert to the tried and trusted partnership of Damion Stewart and Zesh Rehman at the heart of defence to thwart the attacking talents of JDT. 

Will the Red Ants’ winless streak continue?

Sarawak vs PKNS | Friday May 16th | 8:45pm
Winless in the league since March 15th, things aren’t looking too good for PKNS as they find themselves slowing getting embroiled in the relegation battle. With his team in desperate need of points, Wan Jamak Wan Hassan will really need to use his experience and lift the morale in the dressing room if they want to stand a chance of winning against Sarawak. Their rivals of the week did not have a good outing last week – they let a 2-0 lead against Sime Darby slipped and lost 3-2 in the end – but they will still be dangerous, especially with Junior Eldstal returning from suspension and S. Chantaru in top form.

Will Perak record three wins on the bounce?

Kelantan vs Perak | Saturday May 17th | 8:45pm
Following the appointment of former coach Karl-Heinz Weigang as their new advisor, Perak have enjoyed a mini revival in recent weeks. Two wins on the trot against Terengganu and ATM have seen the once hopeless Silver State climb off the foot of the table and provided them with belief that they can get start afresh in the second half of the season and fight off relegation from the Super League. Will they make in three wins in a row this week? It will be difficult, especially as their hosts Kelantan are enjoying a similar renaissance under new coach George Boateng, who replaced Steve Darby in case you somehow haven't heard about it. Last week, the Red Warriors defeated PKNS 2-0 to give Boateng a winning league start.

Will Nazmi Faiz start against Sime Darby?

Selangor vs Sime Darby | Saturday May 17th | 8:45pm
With two of their closest rivals taking on each other this week, Selangor will be looking to further cement their lead at the top of the table against Sime Darby. Unbeaten in the league since getting trounced 4-1 by JDT in February, the form book definitely favours the Red Giants, but Sime Darby are an unpredictable side, as witnessed in their great come-from-behind win against Sarawak. While Selangor boss Mehmet Durakovic can always count on Paulo Rangel and Andik Vermansyah to score the goals, the Australian coach might need to call upon the services of Nazmi Faiz, who did not feature against Pahang last week after his move from PKNS, to provide the ammunition.

Can Baihakki Khaizan’s return improve the LionsXII’s fortunes?

Terengganu vs LionsXII | Saturday May 17 | 8:45pm
Defending champions LionsXII haven’t had the best of seasons under Fandi Ahmad. Thankfully for the Singaporean legend, the international break came at the right time following his side’s defeat to Selangor in April, which gave him a month’s time to fine-tune his squad to make a late push for a top-half finish. The pressure on him could be easing off as well because this week, all eyes will be on Baihakki Khaizan, who re-signed with the LionsXII after his JDT honeymoon abruptly came to an end. The Singapore international is expected to start the game against out-of-form Terengganu to provide much-needed steel in the heart of the LionsXII’s defence and morale boost for the entire squad.

Will ATM lose to another relegation rivals?

ATM vs T-Team | Saturday May 17th | 8:45pm
If B. Sathianathan ever needs his team to rise to the occasion and produce for him, this is it. Despite being one of the title challengers last season, ATM have been sitting in the relegation zone this season due to injuries to their key players such as Amiridzuan Tajuddin, K. Reuben and Marlon Alex James (who has been released). Last week’s defeat to Perak did not help their cause at all, as it allowed the Bos Gaurus to leapfrog them in the league standings. With only seven league games remaining in the season, the pressure will be on the experienced Sathianathan to work his magic in the crucial relegation six-pointer against T-Team.
Photo Credit: Tommy Low @ FAS