LionsXII to go on the attack in FA Cup

The LionsXII are looking to step up their game when they host Malaysia Premier League side KL SPA Putrajaya in the second round of the Malaysia FA Cup at Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday.

Head coach Fandi Ahmad will field an all-out attacking line-up as he demands his players to take the initiative from the opening whistle.

“In recent games, it took us a while to settle down and get into our rhythm after 20 to 30 minutes,” he told FourFourTwo after their pre-match training session on Friday.

“We need to get hold of the game from the beginning, go on an offensive game and score some early goals.”

Against a team lying at the bottom of the Malaysian second-tier, Fandi is looking at giving a couple of fresh legs a solid run-out.

With the focus on dominating the cup tie, the LionsXII is likely to field a 4-4-2 with striker Sahil Suhaimi making his first start of the season alongside Khairul Amri.

The 23-year-old forward made an impact coming on as a second half substitute in the previous round of the FA Cup as he netted a brace to help his side thump third-tier side PB Melayu Kedah 4-0.

Also likely to be in the starting eleven is wide midfielder Christopher van Huizen, while regulars Isa Halim and Faris Ramli will be rested as they recover from their knee and hamstring injuries respectively.

“If we win this round, we are in for a very hectic April as we will be having six games that month, including a potential quarter-final against Johor Darul Ta’zim II,” Fandi said.

“With a few players juggling both club and international duties, especially those involved in the Southeast Asian Games preparatory squad, we must take care of their bodies to ensure they are ready for all matches.”

There will be no second chance for defender Wahyudi Wahid, who started in the previous round in Kedah, to redeem himself at this moment as Fandi keeps faith with the back four that stabilised the side after his early substitution against Terengganu last week.

This means keeping converted centre back Zulfahmi Arifin in his present position alongside Afiq Yunos, while Madhu Mohana has recovered from a groin strain to take his place at right back.

“Don’t be fooled by his size, Zulfahmi is the fastest player in the 30-metre sprints,” Fandi said.

“He shows a lot of composure on the ball and quality in reading the game and has the assets to become a good central defender and establish himself as a mainstay at the back.”

Although KL SPA Putrajaya have only gained one point in five matches in the Premier League, the Singapore football legend has cautioned against any complacency against the lower-division opponents.

“We will tell our players not to underestimate our opponents even though they come from a division below us,” he said.

“We want to use this as an opportunity to show we can do better than we did in our previous games.”

Should LionsXII fulfil their expectations of overcoming KL SPA Putrajaya, they are set for a reunion with former Singapore defenders Baihakki Khaizan and Shahril Ishak in the quarter-final showdown with Premier League side JDT II next month.