Low-ranked Macau aren’t expected to give the hosts much problems in Malacca but Ong Kim Swee is unlikely to take his first match as Malaysia coach in his hometown lightly. FourFourTwo predicts he will put on an offensive line-up at the Hang Jebat Stadium on Tuesday.
Goalkeeper: Khairul Fahmi Che Mat
The Kelantan custodian, fondly referred to as ‘Apek’, silenced critics who questioned his selection to the national team during Malaysia’s 2-0 loss to Saudi Arabia.
Though he should have prevented Taiseer Al Jassam from beating him at the near post, Apek made countless of saves to prevent a fourth consecutive whitewash on Gulf soil.
Khairul Fahmi is rightly ahead of Izham Tarmizi Roslan and Farhan Abu Bakar in the squad.
Right-back: Matthew Davies
The Pahang right-back may have looked sluggish in a warm-up match against MK Land prior to the trip to the King Abdullah Stadium, but he did enough to impress after coming off the bench for Azrif Nasrulhaq in the second half against Saudi Arabia.
With Azrif looking tired, the 21-year-old Davies can provide energy down the right as Malaysia’s attacking game would require overlapping full-backs.
Centre-back: Shahrul Saad
Shahrul was left out of the starting 11 last week despite being on form at Perak as Ong opted to field Fadhli Shas and Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, both of whom have played together since 2012.
With Aidil out injured and Shahrom Kalam probably needing a rest due to his hectic club scheduling, Ong could look to his former Harimau Muda defender.
After all, it was who Ong handed Shahrul his debut in November.
Centre-back: Fadhli Shas
His inclusion in the starting 11 last time out came as a surprise for many but on hindsight, it made sense why the JDT reserve was picked despite having the least playing time among the other centre-backs in the squad.
Fadhli was the tallest Malaysian on the pitch and his presence did well to curb Saudi’s aerial threat.
However, he is partly to be blamed for Saudi’s second goal as he was slow to close down Al Jassam.
Left-back: S. Kunanlan
Kunanlan could be Malaysia’s most experienced defender on the pitch on Tuesday if Aidil Zafuan does not get the green light to play.
The 29-year-old has been a loyal servant to the national team since 2010 and diligently gets the job done wherever he is played – be it at full-back or wing on either sides.
With Azrif expected to be left out and Davies’ good showing, Ong could be tempted to move Kunanlan to the left-side of defence.