The LionsXII are a step closer to reaching their first-ever Malaysia FA Cup final, but head coach Fandi has warned that any slip-ups could be fatal as they take on dangerous Terangganu.
The Singaporeans have encountered and overcome lower league opponents – PB Melayu Kedah, KL SPA Putrajaya and Johor Darul Ta’zim II - in the previous three rounds to stand as one of the four remaining teams in this competition.
Terangganu will be the first Malaysia Super League opponents the Lions are facing in the FA Cup. Having come from behind to force a 1-1 home draw back in March, Fandi cautioned against taking anything for granted.
“It is not going to be easy as Terengganu have three excellent strikers in Paulo Rangel, Issey Nakajima and Mat Yo (new signing Noshahrul Idlan Talaha) and a good playmaker in Gustavo Lopez,” he told FourFourTwo.
“We have to use our strengths, the high energy and speed we have in our players, attack and defender together because Terengganu have individuals who can win matches for them.”
Home advantage in the form of the artificial turf at Jalan Besar Stadium will be pivotal for LionsXII, as they have been unbeaten in all competitions here this season.
“We need to focus fully especially in defence, and be careful not to concede any goals,” Fandi said.
“It is very important to keep a clean sheet at home in the cup first leg. We need to be conservative in coming out against them because they can punish us for any lapse at the back.”
Two LionsXII players, skipper Isa Halim and Khairul Amri, were part of the squad that made it this far in the Young Lions' 2006 Cup run, and Fandi is counting on the veteran duo to share their experience with teammates.
“Isa and Amri will give some feedback because they were very young, 19 and 20 then when they played against Perlis in the semi-finals,” he said.
“They will give some feedback to the rest of the squad because they had the experience of being there and have done it before.”
The LionsXII will welcome the quartet of Faris Ramli, Sahil Suhaimi, Christophen van Huizen and Zakir Samsudin from the Singapore Under-23 centralised training camp, and also have Khairul Nizam back after suffering a muscle injury before their 2-1 away win against Sime Darby last weekend.
While Fandi is pleased to have his strongest available squad for the home leg, he insists there will not be any point if they are unable to take a strong lead ahead of the return leg in Kuala Terengganu next weekend.
“In the end, it’s our will, how strong our mental character is, and how strong our team work and bonding are on the day,” he said.
“We have been going on the positive side, so we can carry on and try to win matches, especially at home where we will be more confident.”comments