The MSL Preview: Game week 16

It’s top versus bottom this weekend, as the league officially returns from a three-week break. The top three teams in the Super League face sides languishing in the bottom four as they pursue the title (you can see how we rate their chances, here).

Selangor vs PDRM

Selangor’s form: LLWWD | PDRM’s form: LLWLL

Last meeting: PDRM 1-4 Selangor (Mar 2015)

Both teams will be desperate for an overdue win to get back to where they were before a slump in form dropped them down the table. PDRM are arguably worse off, having lost five of their previous six matches, costing head coach Azman Adnan his job. Captain Muslim Ahmad and Nurul Azwan Roya were also sacked, so it will be interesting to see how the Cops fare with this new set-up, headed by caretaker coach Fauzi Pilus. Foreign strikers Ali Ashfaq and Dramane Traore (the Super League’s current top scorer) should be fit after pulling out of the Malaysia XI squad that faced Liverpool last week. Meanwhile, Selangor will not be taking an unstable PDRM lightly, as coach Mehmet Durakovic has his own injury crisis to worry about. Strikers Afiq Azmi and Thamil Arasu might not be ready for action, whereas left-back Raimi Mohd Nor has an ankle knock and goalkeeper Hamsani Ahmad injured his thigh. Brazilian midfielder Leandro dos Santos is suspended again, but his compatriot Guilherme de Paula has recovered from injury and should be ready to start. Azrif Nasrulhaq also returns from suspension.

PDRM striker Dramane Traore should be well rested after sitting out the clash with Liverpool FC

Sarawak vs. Johor Darul Ta’zim

Sarawak’s form: LLLLD | JDT’s form: WWDWW

Last meeting: JDT 2-1 Sarawak (Mar 2015)

Interestingly enough, Sarawak have only lost once in their own stadium thus far, but the Crocs are coming off a poor run of form that has seen Robert Alberts resign, ending his second stint with the team. Bosnian Fuad Grbesic has been put in charge and he will face a true baptism of fire with the visit of reigning champions JDT. Grbesic will have to do without several main players, as Ryan Griffiths is suspended, while Ashri Chuchu and G. Mahathevan are doubtful with knocks. Sarawak welcome the return of left-back Ramesh Lai Ban Huat, who’d missed the last five matches due to injury. For all JDT’s strength, it’s often overlooked that they have achieved only one win in seven away matches this season. The Southern Tigers will need to start improving that record if they want to keep pace with Pahang at the top of the table. Mario Gomez’s side will miss captain Safiq Rahim through suspension, but on a welcome note, Hariss Harun and Junior Eldstal are back in training. Patricio Rodriguez remains a long-term absentee.

Sime Darby vs. Pahang

Sime Darby’s form: DLDLD | Pahang’s form: WWDWW

Last meeting: Pahang 2-0 Sime Darby (Mar 2015)

This is a classic example of top versus bottom. Sime Darby have been rooted to the foot of the table since the opening round of fixtures and are currently five points adrift of 11th-placed ATM and eight points from safety. Nonetheless, the Giant Killers have improved slightly, earning four draws in their last seven matches while scoring goals more regularly, but it might not be enough against Pahang, who sit atop the table. The Elephants have won their last four away matches, scoring 11 goals in the process. Khairul Azhan Khalid and Razman Roslan will be boosted by solid defensive displays in the Malaysia XI’s recent 1-1 draw with Liverpool, but Zainal Abidin Hassan will be without back-up midfielders Azidan Sarudin, who has been ruled out till the end of the season with an ACL injury, and Nor Azam Azih, who took a knock to his right knee in a recent friendly.

Pahang midfielder Azidan Sarudin will miss the rest of the season due to a knee injury

ATM vs. Terengganu

ATM’s form: LLLDL | Terengganu’s form: WWLLL

Last meeting: Terengganu 2-2 ATM (Mar 2015)

Three points behind 10th-placed Sarawak, ATM will be hoping to replicate the kind of performance that earned them a point in the previous meeting between these two sides. Skipper Hairuddin Omar has pushed his team to avoid the drop, telling The Star: “The whole team is ready to step up and give everything to get maximum points.” Australian midfielder Mario Karlovic is still unavailable due to a torn abductor muscle, while Norfazly Alias and Azreen Zulkafli are suspended. Venice Elphi has scored twice in three games for the Gladiator, and he’ll definitely been one of the players to watch. Terengganu seem to have stopped the rot and are now on a run of two straight victories since assistant coach Ahmad Yusof took over from Abdul Rahman Ibrahim. This match should prove to be a decent chance for them to continue working their way into the top half of the table, but they will do so without Paulo Rangel (still banned). Canadian-Japanese forward Issey Nakajima-Farran might make his first appearance in six matches after recovering from injury.

Kelantan vs. Perak

Kelantan’s form: WDWLD | Perak’s form: LWWWD

Last meeting: Perak 0-0 Kelantan (Mar 2015)

Kelantan play their third consecutive home match in the space of a week hoping to continue their recent good form against a Perak side eager to atone for their last defeat against Lions XII. Since coach Azraai Khor was removed, the Red Warriors have earned seven points from a possible nine under Zahasmi Ismail, their best run of form this season. They’re scoring goals too, netting 10 in their last three matches, almost as many as they scored in the first half of the season. Erwin Carillo has three in three and he might be supported by Austin Amutu, who has shrugged off a persistent injury. Veteran Norhafiz Zamani Misbah could also return, but centre-back Jon McKain is out after going off at half-time against ATM. Perak need a win if they are to keep pace at the top of the table, but they will have to do so without right-back Hisyamudin Sha’ari, who is suspended. On the bright side, star striker Woong Namkoong (the Bos Gaurus’ top scorer alongside Chad Charles Souza with nine goals) should be 100 per cent again after going off at half-time against Lions XII with stomach issues.

Lions XII vs. Felda United

Lions XII’s form: WWLDW | Felda United’s form: WDWLD

Last meeting: Felda United 0-0 Lions XII (Mar 2015)

Lions XII host Felda as one of the three remaining teams with an unbeaten home record. The Singaporean side will also be buoyed by their last match at the Jalan Besar Stadium, which saw them come from behind to edge high-flying Perak 2-1. With 10 different scorers in the league so far (the joint-highest, alongside Selangor and Felda), their good form is a true team effort, but left-back Hafiz Sujad in particular stood out for starring at both ends in recent games. The Lions’ home record will be severely tested by a Felda side with the best road form in the league, having earned 15 points from seven matches away from the Selayang Stadium. They’ve also earned four clean sheets in those games, an impressive tally. Indra Putra Mahayuddin netted a hat-trick in his last match, while Liberian midfielder Zah Rahan Krangar has two in two.