The FourFourTwo Preview: LionsXII vs Selangor FA

Malaysia Super League | Jalan Besar Stadium | Sat 15 Aug | 7.45pm

Billed as

A clash of age-old rivals.

The lowdown

LIONSXII FORM

  • JDT 1-0 LionsXII (MSL)
  • LionsXII 4-2 Pahang FA (MSL)
  • Terengganu FA 4-2 LionsXII (MSL)
  • LionsXII 2-1 Felda United (MSL)
  • LionsXII 2-1 Perak FA (MSL)

SELANGOR FA FORM

  • Selangor FA 3-2 ATM FA (MSL)
  • Sime Darby 1-3 Selangor FA (MSL)
  • Sarawak FA 1-1 Selangor FA (MSL)
  • Selangor FA 1-1 PDRM FA (MSL)
  • JDT 3-1 Selangor FA (MSL)

The tough games keep coming for LionsXII in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) as they host third-placed Selangor FA following successive games against the top-two sides Pahang FA and Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT). 

After a stunning 4-2 upset of Pahang at home, the Singaporeans were brought back down to earth at Larkin in mid-week as a Luciano Figueroa goal was enough to separate the two teams.

The defeat means they dropped a spot to seventh in the 12-team table, level on points with sixth-placed Felda United and three behind fourth-placed Terengganu FA. With just three games to go, Fandi Ahmad’s boys can ill afford to drop any more points if they still want to finish in the top four and clinch a seeding for the upcoming Malaysia Cup.

Winnable games against strugglers Sarawak FA and Sime Darby lie ahead, but first they will need to get past traditional powerhouses Selangor.

After an impressive 2014 where they pushed JDT all the way until the final day before settling for second, the Red Giants were hoping to go one better this year. Things looked rosy initially as they lost just once in the first eight games and put up a five-game winning streak, capped off by an impressive 4-0 mauling of LionsXII at Shah Alam.

That saw Mehmet Durakovic’s men leading the table by the end of Round 8, but a three-game winless run (2-1 losses to Kelantan FA and Perak FA, before a 4-4 draw against Felda United) soon followed as they slipped down the standings.

Successive defeats against the top two midway through killed off their title hopes, but they have since bounced back well with a neat four-match unbeaten run which had them holding PDRM FA and Sarawak to 1-1 draws, before beating Sime Darby 3-1 and ATM FA 3-2.

The 2009 and 2010 champions are now in third position with 32 points and will be aiming to stave off the pressure from the chasing pack to seal their spot in the top four as soon as possible.

It's no wonder the stakes remain sky-high in this clash of arch-rivals at Jalan Besar.

Selangor ran riot in a 4-0 win the last time these teams met. Photo: Izzat Akmal/FAS

Team news

While LionsXII are visibly tired from their exertions against the two big guns over the past week, coach Fandi is unlikely to tinker too much with his starting 11. Expect Faritz Hameed to start his third successive game beside the ever-present trio of Madhu Mohana, Shakir Hamzah and Hafiz Sujad.

Nazrul Nazari and Faris Ramli are likely to continue down the wings, with Izzdin Shafiq pairing up with either Zulfahmi Arifin or Shahdan Sulaiman. Safuwan Baharudin should continue in the hole, just behind lone forward Khairul Nizam.

Hot shot Khairul Amri was back in full training on Thursday and could be a welcome addition to the squad for this contest.

Meanwhile over in the other camp, Durakovic is expected to retain the line-up that started the 3-2 win against ATM three days ago.

With towering Australian centre-back Robert Cornthwaite ruled out for the rest of the season due to a broken cheekbone, the all-Malaysian backline of Bunyamin Umar, Shahrom Kalam, Rizal Fahmi and Azrif Nasrulhaq will provide cover in front of keeper Norazlan Razali.

Brazilian Leandro Dos Santos and Malaysian golden boy Nazmi Faiz keep things ticking in the middle of the park while the rest wreak havoc, a tactic which has worked a treat so far. Selangor have scored a total of 37 goals in 19 games, which makes them the third-best attacking team in the league behind PDRM and Pahang.

Wingers Andik Vermansyah and Ahmad Hazwan Bakri have contributed six and five goals each, while forwards Guilherme de Paula and Afiq Azmi have scored five and seven respectively.

Interestingly enough, while Guilherme seems to be hitting form with two goals in the last two games, Afiq is on an 11-match barren run after a delightful hat-trick against LionsXII in Matchweek Eight. The 26-year-old will certainly be keen to get back to scoring ways when he faces Madhu and company again.

Hafiz Abu Sujad has been a key figure for the LionsXII this season. Photo: WX Lim/FFT

Key battle: Hafiz Abu Sujad vs Andik Vermansyah  

After acquitting himself well against the likes of Azamuddin Akil and Amri Yahyah in the last couple of games, it will be yet another stern 90 minutes in store for Hafiz as he takes on six-goal Andik down his flank.

The LionsXII left back loves to bomb forward and support the attack but will need to be wary of leaving holes behind for his opponent to capitalise. Indonesian starlet Andik stands at just 1.62m tall, but possesses electric pace and crossing ability.

If given a free kick from 20 or 25 yards out, do expect him to take charge as well. Just take a look at this video. Singapore fans will find it familiar…

LAST FIVE MEETINGS

  • Selangor FA 4-0 LionsXII (MSL, Apr '15)
  • Selangor FA 1-0 LionsXII (MSL, Apr '14)
  • LionsXII 2-1 Selangor FA (MSL, Jan '14)
  • Selangor FA 0-0 LionsXII (MSL, Apr '13)
  • LionsXII 1-0 Selangor FA (MSL, Jan '13)

The coaches

In the two dugouts are coaches who both made an impact on Malaysian football during their playing days.

While Fandi won three league titles and five Malaysia Cups with three different teams (Kuala Lumpur, Pahang and Singapore FA), Durakovic picked up three successive Malaysia Cups between 1995 and 1997 as a Selangor player.

The 49-year-old Durakovic hasn't quite built on a solid first year, so he will surely be eying at least a good end to the season and better fortunes in the upcoming Malaysia Cup.

Facts and figures

  • It is fairly poised in terms of head-to-head records between the teams. Each side has two wins, with the other three matches ending up in draws.
  • LionsXII are unbeaten in 12 games at home this season – winning seven and drawing two in the league, while winning three in the FA Cup.
  • On the other hand, Selangor’s away form has been mixed with three wins, three draws and three losses.  
  • LionsXII are on a six-match winning streak at home in the league (seven if you count all competitions).
  • LionsXII have never lost against Selangor at home, drawing 1-1 back in 2012, before 1-0 and 2-1 victories over the last two seasons.  
  • While LionsXII have come from behind to win three times, Selangor have failed to do so all year.  
  • Both sides have kept only four clean sheets in 19 games this season. 
  • Both the LionsXII and Selangor have 12 individual goalscorers, joint-highest amongst the 12 league teams.

Will Durakovic be smiling after Saturdays game in Singapore?

FourFourTwo predictions

FFT.com Editor Zee Ko: If there's one thing we've learnt, it's that the LionsXII look a different beast at home. Selangor to limp home with bite marks after a 3-1 loss on Saturday evening.

Darren Goon: LionsXII 2-1 Selangor. The home team have shown that they cannot be underestimated at the JBS. Selangor have been spotty of late and LionsXII's spirited performances against Pahang and JDT should see them through to another home victory.

Kenneth Tan: Fatigue is bound to show after so many games over the last couple of weeks, but the LionsXII are formidable at home. Tough one to call, but I’m seeing a 2-2 draw here… 

938Live's Noor Farhan: It will be a 3-1 home victory. The LionsXII know this is make-or-break and home games are the best place to earn all three points.

The Straits Times’ Deepanraj Ganesan: 4-0. Revenge will be sweet for the LionsXII after the drubbing they received in the away game earlier in the season.

Main Photo: Izzat Akmal/Football Association of Singapore