Pahang FA vs LionsXII: Can Fandi's lads take advantage of vulnerable Elephants?

Malaysia Cup Quarter-final First Leg | Darul Makmur Stadium | Tues 24 Nov | 8.45pm

Billed as

The must-watch clash of the round.

The lowdown

Pahang FA Form

  • Pahang FA 0-0 Penang FA (M’sia Cup)
  • PDRM FA 0-3 Pahang FA (M’sia Cup)
  • Pahang FA 1-4 Selangor PKNS (M’sia Cup)
  • Penang FA 4-1 Pahang FA (M’sia Cup)
  • Selangor PKNS 0-2 Pahang FA (M’sia Cup) 

LionsXII Form

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

With no more international breaks for the rest of the year, the two teams can now fully focus their efforts on the 2015 Malaysia Cup knockout stages.

The first leg will be played at the Darul Makmur Stadium next Tuesday night, before the second leg takes place at the Jalan Besar Stadium four days later. The winner of the two-legged clash will take on either Selangor FA or Sarawak FA in the semi-finals.

LionsXII will likely be going into this encounter the more confident side after navigating through a rather tricky group with Kedah FA, Terengganu FA and Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) II – eventually finishing top of the pile.

While preserving their unbeaten home record in all competitions this term, the all-Singapore outfit have also managed to banish some of their away woes with victories in Johor and Kuala Terengganu. The 2-1 win against Terengganu three weeks ago was easily their best away display all season.

After Diyaulrahman Hasry put the Turtles ahead with an early goal, heads could have dropped just like in previous away matches but the Lions rallied this time.

Fandi Ahmad’s side thrived in the calamitous conditions and on a waterlogged pitch as substitutes Sufian Anuar and Christopher van Huizen scored to help the LionsXII record a memorable comeback win.

That should give them much confidence going into what seems like yet another tough visit to the Darul Makmur Stadium to take on defending champions Pahang FA.

The Tok Gajah are traditionally strong at home, but that does not appear to be the case in this year’s Malaysia Cup.

After needing a late Dickson Nwakaeme goal to beat PDRM FA 4-3, they proceeded to lose 4-1 against Selangor PKNS before being held 0-0 by Penang FA in the final group game. Widely expected to cruise through the group stages, they only managed to finish second behind PKNS in Group D.

So the Pahang faithful are certainly not taking a home victory against the LionsXII for granted. With the Singaporeans formidable at home, Zainal Abidin Hassan’s side will want to bank at least a one-goal lead going into the second leg.

LionsXII defender Madhu Mohana has enjoyed playing against Pahang lately

Team news

Veteran LionsXII striker Khairul Amri is still out with a hamstring injury so it's anyone's guess who starts up front this week.

Fandi may just opt for a partnership of Sufian Anuar and Sahil Suhaimi, after the duo worked well in tandem last time out against Terengganu, with Khairul Nizam perhaps playing an impact substitute role.

Midfielder enforcer Izzdin Shafiq is also out through suspension so expect Zulfahmi Arifin to be inserted into the middle of the park to partner Safuwan Baharudin.

Pahang are free of any injuries and suspensions with Zainal Abidin having the luxury of a full squad to choose from.

Barring any surprises, big Damion Stewart will pair up captain Razman Roslan at the heart of defence while Zesh Rehman links up with the creative Hafiz Kamal in central midfield.

Azamuddin Akil and R Gopinathan will provide the ammunition from the wide areas for Dickson Nwakaeme and Matias Conti to grab the goals.

The strike duo has accounted for 30 out of Pahang's 63 goals in all domestic competitions this season.

Matias Conti (No.9) adds bite to the Pahang attack

Player to watch: Matias Conti

While LionsXII centre-back Madhu had singled out Nwakaeme as Pahang’s danger man, it may well be the Nigerian's strike partner Conti who produces the goods instead.

The 25-year-old is enjoying one of his best seasons in a Pahang shirt since joining in 2013, plundering 16 goals in all domestic competitions so far.

Games against the LionsXII seem to bring out the best in the Argentinian – as evidenced by him scoring the winner in last year’s Piala Sumbangsih, as well as in the two prior league encounters against them this term.

Last Five Meetings

  • LionsXII 4-2 Pahang FA (MSL, Aug '15)
  • Pahang FA 3-2 LionsXII (MSL, Apr '15)
  • Pahang FA 1-2 LionsXII (Malaysia Cup, Aug '14)
  • LionsXII 1-2 Pahang FA (Malaysia Cup, Aug '14)
  • LionsXII 4-1 Pahang FA (MSL, Apr '14)

The coaches

Once again, this clash pits together two good friends in LionsXII’s Fandi Ahmad and Pahang’s Zainal Abidin Hassan.

However there will no room for sentiment between the duo, who inspired the Tok Gajah to a dream league and Malaysia Cup double in 1992.

Zainal Abidin is looking to retain the Cup after finishing second-best to JDT in the league, while Fandi will be keen to win the tournament for the first time as a coach.

Facts and figures

  • There isn't much separating both sides in the head-to-head count. Each team has won five times, while the remaining match ended up in a draw.
  • The only difference is that in those matches, the LionsXII have scored 21 goals while Pahang have only netted 15 times.  
  • Pahang’s Azamuddin and LionsXII’s Safuwan are the respective top scorers for each side in the competition so far with four goals apiece.

FourFourTwo predictions Editor Zee Ko: Fandi's boys seem to have gotten the hang of away fixtures lately. A 2-1 win to the visitors to build on this form.

Sunny Mahtani: Pahang 2-0 LionsXII. The defending champions will hit their stride in the knockout stages and capitalise on the Singaporean side's woeful away form and lack of firepower

Kenneth Tan: Pahang FA 1-1 LionsXII. Tough 90 minutes in store for Fandi’s boys, but I fancy them coming through unscathed and finishing the job at Jalan Besar.

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