LionsXII eye top-four spot ahead of JDT clash

Fandi Ahmad has challenged his LionsXII team to clinch a top-four position ahead of their highly-anticipated Malaysia Super League clash against Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) on Wednesday evening.

Johor are top of the table and highly likely to finish among the top four, which guarantees a seeding for the Malaysia Cup competition, starting next month.

The LionsXII have similarly qualified for the tournament, but will be hoping to also snare a top-four finish, therefore charting an easier passage to the knockout stages by avoiding the big guns early on.

"We have already qualified for the Malaysia Cup, but we need to [get into the] top four because of the seedings," Fandi explained before LionsXII training on Tuesday.

"You can see there are five teams still in the race for third and fourth spot, and we are one of them, but we are also lacking in the goals department.

"We are not worried, but we will try to do our best."

JDT are currently on 40 points from their 18 games, one point ahead of Pahang. PDRM are next on 31 points, leading a cluster of teams that includes Selangor, Felda United, Terengganu and LionsXII, who are all on 29 points.

LionsXII's chances of remaining in touch are that much harder on Wednesday night against a Southern Tigers side currently boasting a perfect record at home this season, winning all nine of their league games at Larkin.

On the other hand, LionsXII have the fourth-worst away record in the league, winning just one and drawing three games out of nine.

It is a fact not lost on Fandi, who will be looking to keep things tight against JDT.

"Of course we want to win, but in Johor if you play openly, you will have a big problem because they have so many attackers to choose from," he said.

"The important thing is to be very strong both in attack and defence. We go up together and defend together, but more importantly we have to take our chances.

"The least we can do is go there and try to get a point, that will be good enough for us."

LionsXII will take encouragement from their game on the weekend, when they upset pacesetters Pahang FA at Jalan Besar Stadium in a 4-2 win.

They will once again be missing the services of their key forward Khairul Amri, although Fandi believes that they have enough in reserve as they look to take on JDT.

"It's the togetherness, the maturity and players taking responsibility now and not waiting for others," he said.

"They follow instructions and the way we want them to play and I think they have matured as a group and as a team."