Final day of 2016 MSL – Chasing invincibility and survival

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The 2016 Malaysia Super League (MSL) season concludes on Saturday with Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) already confirmed as winners, but there is a relegation battle among other things... 

JDT chasing ‘Untouchables’ tag

Having already secured a record-breaking third straight Malaysia Super League (MSL) title, the Southern Tigers are chasing one more feat – staying unbeaten in the league for an entire season.

JDT are on the verge of being Malaysia’s version of the The Invincibles Arsenal squad. In September, FourFourTwo coined the phrase ‘The Untouchables’ following an interview with the club’s sporting director Alistair Edwards.

JDT have already collected the most number of points in a season and have a near unblemished record at their home ground in Larkin, where the club have not lost since a 1-0 win for LionsXII in the 2012 season. The opening draw to Selangor was the only time in two seasons JDT failed to record a home league win.

It is left to Selangor, struggling with all sorts of internal problems, to deny JDT another record, but Mario Gomez’ men should have enough in them to avoid defeat.

The AFC Cup semi-final exit to Bengaluru is expected to fire up the players, especially Wednesday’s absentees Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Juan Martin Lucero, who are both gunning for the golden boot award.

Traditional giants Selangor have just honour to play for

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Can Selangor salvage some pride in their final league of the season?

The Malaysia Cup is papering over Selangor’s crack – including its volatile management who can’t even be on the same page at the moment – again and the Red Giants could yet end the year on a high.

Yet Selangor need a result against JDT at Shah Alam on Saturday or risk facing an embarrassing situation of finishing as low as seventh in the standings. A fifth-place finish is already bad enough, seventh would spell disaster.

The tie had initially looked like a possible mouth-watering title deciding match after Selangor reinforced their squad with several key players from Pahang and appointed Zainal Abidin Hassan.

However, Zainal lost his job in August after a string of unsatisfactory results but their fortunes have not improved in the MSL despite showing grit and determination to reach the Malaysia Cup final.

Selangor have not won in the league since July, losing five of the last seven match.

Top flight survival

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PDRM only need a win to ensure their survival this weekend

Five teams were fighting for survival after the penultimate round but recent developments means only four teams – Sarawak, PDRM, Penang and Terengganu –  are locked in the title race come the season finale.

Pahang received a massive boost on Thursday after Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) awarded them a 3-0 default win over Kedah because the Red Eagles fielded an ineligible player during their match in August. The three points pushed Pahang into eighth in the standings, and more crucially, ensured the Elephants now have an unassailable lead over Penang and Terengganu.

Penang and Terengganu take each other on in Georgetown while Sarawak welcome PDRM to Kuching in the other relegation battle.

The Crocs find themselves in the best position as they only need one point to secure top flight status next season, but one point will not be enough for PDRM should Penang record victory in front of their fans.

Only a win will do for Penang to stay up while Terengganu will need to bank on there being a winner in Kuching to have any hope of survival.

In truth, the Turtles barely deserve to stay up. Terengganu spent big this season but the lack of patience with their coaches meant it was difficult for the club to find any rhythm.

Terengganu even publicly acknowledged talks of signing their fourth coach in the space of a year this week, despite having a crucial match up ahead.

Photos: PDRM