LionsXII vs Johor Darul Ta'zim II: Will Amri's absence be sorely felt?

Malaysia Cup| Jalan Besar Stadium| Sat 17 Oct | 7.45pm

Billed as

A clash that could all but seal a Malaysia Cup quarter-final berth for the LionsXII.

The lowdown

LIONSXII FORM

  • Kedah FA 2-0 LionsXII (M’sia Cup)
  • LionsXII 3-2 Terengganu FA (M’sia Cup)
  • JDT II 1-2 LionsXII (M’sia Cup)
  • LionsXII 1-1 Kedah FA (M’sia Cup)
  • LionsXII 3-0 Sime Darby (MSL)

JDT II FORM

  • Kedah FA 2-3 Terengganu FA (M’sia Cup)
  • JDT II 1-2 LionsXII (M’sia Cup)
  • Terengganu FA 0-0 JDT II (M’sia Cup)
  • Sabah 1-2 JDT II (MPL)
  • JDT II 0-0 NS Matrix (MPL)

It is back to the bread and butter of club football after a two-week international break, where the Singapore and Malaysia national football teams achieved maximum points against Afghanistan, Cambodia and Timor-Leste.

On the LionsXII front, it is also a do-or-die mission on Saturday night despite the hosts having accumulating a healthy seven points in their first four games and sitting joint-top of Group A along with Kedah FA.

With Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) II and Terengganu FA both having a game in hand, all four teams are still in with a mathematical chance of qualification. But as far as the Singaporeans are concerned, three points from this weekend would be very welcome indeed. After all, it would not do to go into the final group game away at the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium against Terengganu needing to get a result.

Khairul Amri's hamstring injury while away on international duty has made things slightly trickier for the LionsXII, with their chief striker ruled out for at least three weeks. While the 30-year-old has not scored that many goals this season, his ability to harass defenders and bring others into play has been valuable to the team.

Don't forget how the LionsXII struggled while Amri was suspended in the first game against Kedah, and in last season's competition after a cheekbone injury ruled him out for five games. Will the LionsXII find a way to cope without him this time round?

On the other hand, JDT II will fancy their chances of getting something from this game after a rather good start to this Cup campaign. While they lost 2-1 to the LionsXII at home, they had better fortunes away – holding Terengganu to a goalless draw before edging Kedah 3-2 in a five-goal thriller at Alor Setar.

Thus there should be no reason for them to fear the LionsXII, especially with the presence of Singapore veterans Baihakki Khaizan and Shahril Ishak, whose knowledge of the Singaporeans should prove handy.

The pressure will be firmly on the home side, so will that play it straight into the hands of the visiting JDT II? A win for them will see them leapfrog the LionsXII into second with a game in hand – that could really shake things up in this unpredictable group.

Faris Ramli will be looking to give compatriot Baihakki Khaizan a torrid time again. Photo: FAS

Team News

There will be a selection headache for LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad ahead of this game. Amri’s prolonged absence means the likes of Sahil Suhaimi, Khairul Nizam or Sufian Anuar will be all champing at the bit to step into the lone forward role.

With Nazrul Nazari suspended, the impressive Christopher van Huizen could also be handed yet another start on the right flank.

Hafiz Sujad and Safuwan Baharudin are also rated ‘doubtful’ for this game, so Shakir Hamzah might be moved to the left side of defence while Shahdan Sulaiman could step into the No.10 role.

Meanwhile, it looks like JDT II should be at full strength for this game, with Baihakki expected to play a starring role in defence alongside goalscoring defender and penalty specialist Nicolas Delmonte.

Shahril will continue to lead the attack, with Irfan Fazail and Zaquan Adha in support. The former LionsXII man will be hoping to add to his tally of eight goals in all competitions so far.

Player To Watch: Shahdan Sulaiman

While the pre-match focus has been on who will step into Amri’s void upfront, the real trump card for the LionsXII may well be midfielder Shahdan.

Unlike most of the first teamers, the 27-year-old is well-rested after not being involved in Singapore’s last two World Cup/Asian Cup qualifiers.

The former Tampines Rovers has looked sharp in training so far and will be determined to prove that he is worthy of a national team recall.

Shahdan Sulaiman will be raring to go after the international break. Photo: WX Lim

The Coaches

LAST FIVE MEETINGS

  • JDT II 1-2 LionsXII (M’sia Cup, Sep ‘14)
  • JDT II 0-2 LionsXII (FA Cup, Apr ‘14)
  • LionsXII 2-0 JDT II (FA Cup, Apr ‘14)
  • LionsXII 2-2 JDT II (M’sia Cup, Aug ‘14)
  • JDT II 2-1 LionsXII (M’sia Cup, Aug ‘14) 

This match-up allows two old friends to catch up on the sidelines. JDT II’s Nenad Bacina has both played under and alongside LionsXII’s Fandi Ahmad while the latter was player-coach for SAFFC (now Warriors FC) from 2000 to 2002.

It will be interesting to see who comes up on top in this battle of wits.  

Facts and Figures

  • LionsXII have the upper hand in terms of past encounters. Both sides have faced off six times, with the LionsXII winning four times while JDT II tasted victory once. The other match ended up in a draw.
  • The solitary win for JDT II came in last year’s Malaysia Cup group stages when Fandi Ahmad’s (the Johor player, not the Singaporean coach) late goal was enough to sink LionsXII 2-1.
  • LionsXII are unbeaten in 16 games at home this season – winning eight and drawing three in the league, winning three in the FA Cup while winning and drawing once in the Malaysia Cup.
  • JDT II have yet to lose away from home in the Malaysia Cup this season – holding Terengganu 0-0 and beating Kedah 3-2.
  • Safuwan is one goal away from becoming the LionsXII’s all-time top scorer. He is currently tied with Shahril on 23 goals each.

FourFourTwo predictions

FFT.com Editor Zee Ko: Ah that unbeaten record is on the line once again. The LionsXII will struggle without Amri, but they will have enough in the tank to complete a regulation 2-0 win.

Sunny Mahtani: 1-0 to the LionsXII. Several members of the squad will be fatigued following their national team commitments but I think the Singaporeans have just enough quality and experience to seal the three points.

Kenneth Tan: 2-1 to the LionsXII. Fatigue will surely come into play for the LionsXII, but they should have enough quality at their disposal to collect another three points at home. I fancy Shahdan to get on the scoresheet as well.