The FourFourTwo Preview: MSL Gameweek 22

All eyes will be on the top of the table as the 2015 Malaysian Super League title race goes down to the wire. The ball is in Johor Darul Ta'zim's court, but anything can happen in the final round of fixtures…

PDRM vs ATM

PDRM’s form: LDWWW | ATM’s form: LDLLL

Last meeting: ATM 3-1 PDRM (May 2015)

As it stands, fourth spot (and the chance of being the final top seed for the Malaysia Cup) is still achievable for PDRM if results go their way, but that’s not their most pressing reason for putting ATM away. ATM were the lowest-ranked side to defeat the Cops this season, and Fauzi Pilus’ men will want to redeem themselves with a good showing in this return match. Ali Ashfaq is back from suspension, and will resume his partnership with Golden Boot frontrunner Dramane Traore in attack. Relegated ATM have more than pride to play for, as they could still be overtaken by basement side Sime Darby. The Gladiators are experiencing a torrid run of eleven winless matches, but don’t bet on that sequence ending on Saturday.

LionsXII vs Sime Darby

LionsXII’s form: LDLWL| Sime Darby’s form: WDDLL

Last meeting: Sime Darby 1-2 LionsXII (May 2015)

LionsXII host Sime Darby confident of ending the league season as one of three teams still unbeaten at home. The Singaporean side haven’t won since vanquishing Pahang four matches ago, and they will need Faris Ramli (absent in the previous game) to weave more of his magic. Alternatively, Fandi Ahmad could give young Christopher van Huizen another start. Ismail Zakaria’s charges managed an overdue win (and their first clean sheet of the season) on Wednesday against ATM, and they will be enthusiastic about leaving the Super League with a bang. Nonetheless, facing the Lions in their own den will probably be a bridge too far for them.

Kelantan vs Sarawak

Kelantan’s form: LWLLD | Sarawak’s form: WDDLD

Last meeting: Sarawak 3-2 Kelantan (May 2015)

This match-up between the 9th and 11th placed teams isn’t expected to amount to much – Sarawak guaranteed safety on Wednesday, and Kelantan have only the slightest chance of catching Perak in eight spot. However, the Red Warriors will go all out for a victory, especially after their weakened side capitulated 3-0 to Selangor. Coach Zahasmi Ismail will be relieved to know that Norhafiz Zamani Misbah, Norhazrul Mustapha, Austin Amutu, and Gilmar da Silva will return from suspension, but his side’s yellow card curse continues, with Erwin Carrillo the latest team member needing to serve a one-match ban. Sarawak have one of the worst away records in the Super League, having drawn three and lost seven of their ten games away from the Sarawak Stadium thus far. Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the LionsXII was their first in the last ten games, and caretaker coach Fuad Grbesic will expect nothing less than a similar performance from his boys in their final league match of 2015, despite losing Ivan Fatic to another suspension.

Perak vs Selangor

Perak’s form: LDLLL | Selangor’s form: WDWWD

Last meeting: Selangor 1-2 Perak (May 2015)

Freefalling Perak are winless in seven, seeing them drop from third place to a lowly eighth. Listless against JDT, caretaker coach Abu Bakar Fadzim will be sweating on the fitness of their three foreign attackers – Charles Chad Souza, Woong Namkung and Horace James. A home win would be a good send-off ahead of the Malaysia Cup draw, and they will probably have to rely upon first-time call-up Nurridzuan Abu Hassan and the reinvigorated Bobby Gonzales for goals. On the other bench, Selangor will go to Ipoh in good spirits, having dispatched Kelantan efficiently. Guilherme de Paula has notched four goals in as many games, but the Red Giants will be without playmaker Nazmi Faiz Mansor after the 21-year-old was sent off against Kelantan.

Felda United vs Johor Darul Ta’zim

Felda United’s form: DWLWD | JDT’s form: WLWWW

Last meeting: JDT 1-0 Felda United (May 2015)

Felda United find themselves in a position to influence the title race yet again. After holding Pahang to a draw on Wednesday, can they throw another spanner in the works by causing JDT some trouble? Coach Irfan Bakti is unperturbed, telling The Star, “It does not matter to us whether we are tagged party poopers or spoilers. We have a job to do and our KPI (Key Performance Indicator) is to achieve a top-four finish. We want to be one of the seeded teams in the Malaysia Cup. We are fifth now and a win against JDT will see us move up.” Meanwhile, JDT know that their title destiny remains in their hands. All they need to do is match or better Pahang’s result against Terengganu to bag their second consecutive league title. Felda will be tricky customers, but their miserly defence will relish picking up another clean sheet, despite the absence of Marcos Antonio through suspension. Junior Eldstal filled in well in his place and should get the nod again ahead of Fadhli Shas.

Terengganu vs Pahang

Terengganu’s form: WLWWW| Pahang’s form: DDWLW

Last meeting: Pahang 3-2 Terengganu (May 2015)

With seven wins in their last eight matches, this resurgent Terengganu side will be no pushovers for title-chasing Pahang. The Turtles are powered by the attacking prowess of Issey Nakajima-Farran (seven goals in six games) and the artistry of Gustavo Lopez, playmaker extraordinaire. Fellow forward Norshahrul Idlan Talaha was taken off early after picking up a knock against PDRM, so it remains to be seen if he’ll start this game. Terengganu will also miss Ismail Faruqi, who will be serving a one-match ban. As for the away side, Pahang have been in a mini slump of their own, throwing away top spot due to shoddy defending and fatigue, leaving their title hopes hanging by a thread. Their once-impregnable goal has conceded 10 in four games, and even though their strikers are more than capable of popping them in up front, their solidity at the back (or lack thereof) is something Zainal Abidin Hassan needs to address. Azidan Sarudin and Nor Azam Azih remain long-term injury doubts. 

(Pictures: asiana.my)