Kedah preview: Red Eagles' skipper aiming to challenge JDT

Midfielder Baddrol Bakhtiar is enjoying his football with Kedah after numerous challenges, but he believes there is more to come from the Red Eagles in 2017...

Last season, Kedah won the Malaysia Cup and finished an impressive third in the league after a six-match winning run at the end of the season.

This has not sated Baddrol Bakhtiar’s taste for success though; on the contrary, it has been fuelled as the Malaysia international wants to retain the Malaysia Cup and help Kedah challenge for the Malaysia Super League (MSL) title.

We obviously want to defend what is ours, which is the Malaysia Cup … I’m hoping we get off to a good start and be in contention to challenge JDT for the MSL title

- Baddrol

Kedah and Baddrol Bakhtiar will most likely have to overcome reigning champions and favourites Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) in 2017 in order to do so and it is perhaps apt they start their campaign with a face-off at Larkin Stadium.

Baddrol admits it will be tough coming up against Mario Gomez’s men on the road on January 20, but hopes Kedah can hit the ground running when the season starts.

“We obviously want to defend what is ours, which is the Malaysia Cup … I’m hoping we get off to a good start and be in contention to challenge JDT for the MSL title,” Baddrol told FourFourTwo.

“We are together for another season, with some slight changes, so I’m hoping the familiarity will make us tougher and better than last season.”

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Retaining the Malaysia Cup is a priority of Baddrol's

At a time when players regularly move around clubs, Baddrol’s commitment to Kedah’s chase for glory is worth commending.

Working his way up from the youth squad to the first team, Baddrol refused to budge and stuck by the Red Eagles, even when offers came pouring in from the top-flight while Kedah were stuck in the Malaysia Premier League (MPL) for three seasons.

I stayed loyal because I want to help Kedah become a good side, a winning side. Things have been great and I don’t regret staying put

“I stayed loyal because I want to help Kedah become a good side, a winning side. Things have been great and I don’t regret staying put,” he said.

Tan’s the reason for Kedah’s rise

If Azraai Khor is still remembered in Kedah for bringing them success a decade ago, current coach Tan Cheng Hoe is well on his way to carving his name into the hearts of the fans.

The former Malaysia assistant coach has proven he has what it takes to be the main man since he took charge of Kedah prior to their 2014 Malaysia Cup campaign.

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Baddrol credits Tan for Kedah's rise back to the top

Kedah won the 2015 MPL and finished runners-up in the 2015 Malaysia Cup before their return to the top flight.

Baddrol feels Kedah could not have asked for a better candidate and credits the team harmony to the way Tan has handled the situation.

“The togetherness in the squad today is something instilled by Tan. He has been a great coach and is compatible with all of us,” said Baddrol.

“We need to keep building on this in 2017 and I hope Tan keeps improving the squad further so we finish higher than third in the MSL this year.”

Photos: Kedah