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2018 MSL Preview: Team-by-team analysis plus our fearless predictions!

The 2018 Malaysia Super League (MSL) season is about to get underway and while Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) are favourites to extend their record and claim a fifth straight title, the likes of Kedah and Perak are also looking like contenders. Here’s FourFourTwo’s team-by-team preview…

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JOHOR DARUL TA'ZIM

  • Coach: Ulisses Morais
  • Key signings: Jorge Pereyra Diaz, Luciano Figueroa
  • Who they may miss: Gonzalo Cabrera
  • 2017 achievement: MSL and Malaysia Cup winners

The Southern Tigers have two clear goals this season – win the MSL for a record fifth consecutive year and become the first Malaysian side to play in the AFC Champions League.

Changes have been aplenty as Morais approaches his first full season in the Larkin dugout and having already demonstrated his capabilities since joining JDT in mid-season last year, the Portuguese has had more time to fine-tune the squad and mould them into an even more dominant outfit.

Figueroa is back for the Southern Tigers

The club has welcomed back Singapore international Hariss Harun, 2016 MSL top-scorer Diaz and 2015 AFC Cup catalyst Figueroa, who has convinced the club he can deliver the goods despite being 36 years old and coming out of retirement.

JDT have also signed left-back La’vere Corbin-Ong, a naturalised player that appeared in an international friendly for Canada last year. He joins the likes of Junior Eldstal, Darren Lok and Natxo Insa as the club’s mixed heritage players in the first team.

While Hariss provides the midfield and defence an assurance in his holding role, Insa and Safiq Rahim are expected to pull the strings in the engine room to help Figueroa and Diaz to inflict damage up front.

Prediction: Champions

KEDAH

  • Coach: Ramon Marcote
  • Key signings: Pablo Palleres, Alvaro Silva
  • Who they may miss: Ken Ilso, Zachary Anderson
  • 2017 achievement: FA Cup winners, Malaysia Cup runners-up, fourth in the MSL

Fan favourite Marcote is back in the dugout after being in the coaching set-up in 2015. The Spaniard temporarily took charge of the team then as Tan Cheng Hoe left to complete his Pro License.

The Red Eagles ran out of steam in the second half of last season after going blow-for-blow with JDT and Pahang early on, but showed their prowess in Cup competitions. If Marcote can help Kedah find some consistency, they may be able to battle on all fronts.

Will Kedah regret letting Ilso leave?

Ilso and Anderson were crucial to their 2017 campaign and Marcote will be hoping their new imports can live up to expectations. Sandro Da Silva, meanwhile, turns 35 in 2018 and has been injury prone in previous seasons, so his fitness could be another key factor.

Kedah’s strength is likely to be that the rest of the team has been together for several years now. Kedah also have the services of 18-year-old hotshot Akhyar Rashid to call upon.

Prediction: Runners-up

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