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JDT’s latest Asian Champions League bid – Five reasons they can finally reach their ultimate goal

Following three unsuccessful attempts, Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) will have another crack at reaching the AFC Champions League group stage when they face Muangthong United next week and then potentially Kashiwa Reysol in the final playoff. Here are five reasons why this time they might attain Tunku Ismail’s No.1 goal…

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1. BETTER PLANNING

The Southern Tigers have made plenty of changes in terms of their planning and approach ever since the Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim era began ahead of the 2013 season.

Yet 2017 was one year where those plans went a little awry, with some of their quality imports leaving, only to be replaced by those of lesser quality. There was also a shock change in the dugout on the eve of the campaign when the successful Mario Gomez parted ways with the Southern Tigers.

New season, new jerseys - time for a new frontier?

This time around, mindful of repeating the same mistake, the 2015 AFC Cup winners planned well ahead and completed most of their business for 2018 before the turn of the year.

All that is left is the identity of their fifth signing – an Asian import – but that will have zero bearing on the looming qualifiers as they already have the maximum four foreign players allowed for AFC competitions.

2. NO DOMESTIC DISTRACTIONS

The Malaysia Super League (MSL) had already started when the qualifiers came around last year, JDT facing Bangkok United in the Preliminary Round 2 four days after the second round of MSL fixtures.

The 2018 MSL season only starts on February 3, days after the final qualifying round should JDT defeat Muangthong to get there.

The ACL will be JDT's first competitive hitout of 2018

There are two ways of looking at this, however. On one hand it allows the club to concentrate on the continental tournament, something they will need considering the profile of Muangthong and then potential final-round opponents, Japanese side Kashiwa Reysol.

Yet the trip to the SCG Stadium next Tuesday will also be their first competitive match of the season and what a big task that will be.