Felda United vs Ceres-Negros: Fighters to go for jugular

AFC Cup | Shah Alam Stadium | Tuesday April | 4.45pm 

BILLED AS:

Well-oiled Felda United eye on first ever win in the AFC Cup.

THE LOWDOWN:

FELDA'S FORM

  • Felda 2 Perak 2 (MSL)
  • T-Team 0 Felda 0 (MSL)
  • Felda 2 Sarawak 0 (MSL)
  • Felda 1 Hanoi 1 (AFC Cup)
  • Ceres 0 Felda 0 (AFC Cup)

CERES' FORM

  • Voltes 1 Ceres 0 (UFL)
  • Balestier Khalsa 1 Ceres 2 (Singapore Cup)
  • Hanoi 1 Ceres 1 (AFC Cup)
  • Ceres 5 Tampines Rovers 0 (AFC Cup)
  • Ceres 0 Felda 0 (AFC Cup)

Felda United’s cautious approach under newly-hired coach B. Sathianathan in the last five matches is expected to be a thing of the past as the former national trainer wants his team to be more adventurous against Ceres Negros FC of the Philippines on Tuesday.

The players are fresh and have improved their match fitness from the recent 20-day break, and Sathianathan believes his team has also mastered his game philosophy.

Felda have not lost a match since Sathianathan was appointed as coach late-February with a record of one win and four draws in all competitions.

For the record, Felda are currently bottom of Group G with two draws and one defeat but the Malaysia Super League (MSL) side’s fortunes will change if they beat Ceres.

On March 15, Felda were cautious but unlucky to not collect three points in the 0-0 draw with Ceres in the first round match at Bacolod City when Argentine striker Lucas Cano failed to convert from the penalty spot in the second half.

Sathianathan said he was forced to employ a cautious approach in the previous five matches as he had no time to work on tactics due to the hectic domestic schedule.

felda_united_-_felda_united.jpg

Felda are looking for three points when Ceres visit

“Although, we were cautious in those matches, I think the players did well. We could have been at the top of our group had we been sharper up front in matches against Hanoi FC (1-1) on March 7 and Ceres (0-0) on March 15,” Sathianathan told FourFourTwo.

“We led against Hanoi but conceded a very late goal while we missed a penalty against Ceres.

“I think Ceres did not take us seriously in the first round. They thought they would win effortlessly.”

Sathianathan expects a more prepared Ceres on Tuesday.

I think Ceres did not take us seriously in the first round. They thought they would win effortlessly

- Sathianathan

“I think Ceres will be taking us very seriously this time. We will have a tough fight if they play to their ability.

“We have two home games in the second round of the competition and we need to win both to brighten our chance of reaching the knockout stage.

“We will not be cautious…We will be more organised in all departments as the recent 20-day break gave me the opportunity to try out new things with the players,” Sathianathan added.

Sathianathan, however, must come up with a perfect plan to stop Ceres as the Filipino side have depth in their foreign signings and heritage players.

Ceres and Hanoi have each collected five points with the former at the top of the group on goal difference while Singapore’s Tampines Rovers are third on three points.

TEAM NEWS

Sathianathan will give out-of-favour Argentine striker Gaston Cellerino a rare start on Tuesday as Lucas Cano will be serving a one-match suspension.

The coach may reshuffle his defence as he is undecided on whether to play Lebanon’s Mootaz Jounaidi after the centre-back’s return from international duty.

“I am giving an opportunity to Cellerino to make a mark. He is a good striker but he is finding it tough to adapt with our team’s style of play,” said Sathianathan.

Ceres will have to reshuffle their midfield as German-born Manuel Ott is also suspended.

KEY MAN: ZAH RAHAN KRANGAR VS BIENVENIDO MOREJON

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Krangar scored Felda's first-ever goal in the AFC Cup

The 32-year-old Krangar is highly regarded by coach Sathianathan who rates him as the most instrumental Felda player.

He can operate effectively in midfield and also from the flanks. The Liberian is hardworking and has the ability to run down his marker with his pace.

Ceres will definitely watch Krangar closely and also probably put a man on him in the match.

Right-winger Maranon is fast and skilful, and can also score goals. He is Ceres’ leading scorer in the AFC Cup with three goals.

The 31-year-old links up well with forward Fernando Rodriguez and the pair are expected to force Felda defenders to work extra hard to contain them.

FACT AND FIGURES:

  • Lucas Cano and Norshahrul Idlan Talaha are Felda’s joint top scorers in all competitions with three goals each.
  • Zah Rahan Krangar is the first Felda player to score in the AFC Cup. He netted in the 23rd minute in the 1-1 draw with Hanoi on March 7.
  • Felda have not lost a match under coach Sathianathan. Since his appointment, the team have recorded one win and four draws in all competitions.
  • Midfielder Arnie Pasinabo Jnr is the only Filipino-born player who has featured for Ceres in the AFC Cup this year. He played in the final six minutes in the 0-0 draw with Felda on March 15. Ceres comprise mostly heritage players.

FOURFOURTWO’S PREDICTION

Fresh from the recent 20-day break, Felda will likely approach the match differently with the target of scoring goals as they need to win to stay in contention for a spot in the knockout stage. Felda are expected to collect three points on Tuesday.  

Photos: Felda United