Perak vs Johor Darul Ta’zim: D-Day for the Seladangs
Johor Darul Ta’zim’s (JDT) return to Malaysia
There is absolutely no way the Southern Tigers’ breakthrough AFC Cup win over the weekend won’t be mentioned in the lead-up to the game, during the live commentary and in the post-match analysis.
It will be the club’s first game since their historic win against Istiklol and what better way to celebrate than with their fifth straight win in the Malaysia Cup?
Furthermore, considering the tension between the two teams in recent years, JDT will be more than pleased to end Perak’s Malaysia Cup campaign.
JDT have already secured a berth in the last eight, while Sarawak are on six points and in pole position to grab the other place from Group B. Third-ranked ATM and bottom-placed Perak have three points each. Although there will still be one match to play in Group B after Thursday, the top two qualifying spots could be sealed before the final match
Perak certainly have the quality to stun JDT, but if their recent form serves as any indicator, the Seladangs are in for a hiding in their own backyard.
The team started the 2015 season challenging for the Malaysia Super League (MSL) title, but fell flat following a 2-1 defeat to LionsXII at the Jalan Besar Stadium in July, ending the campaign down in eighth in the standings.
Boasting an array of talent in their squad, JDT are likely to field a team with many changes to the one that lined up against Istiklol.
Luciano Figueroa, who played through injury last week, will surely be given a rest but his absence should not concern JDT. The likes of S. Chanturu and Nazrin Nawi can also cause Perak plenty of trouble.
Perak will again be without their skipper Nasir Basharuddin. The central midfielder hasn’t recovered from a wrist injury picked up in October. His influence on his teammate will be missed against JDT.
Player to watch: Gary Steven Robbat
The 23-year-old central midfielder could start the match, allowing Safiq Rahim and Hariss Harun a much needed rest after the duo worked their socks off in the AFC Cup. Robbat, a second-half substitute in the continental cup, is among the finest holding midfielders in the country and can also initiate attacks.
If Gary can stay disciplined, he should win the engine room battle and inspire JDT to victory. What better way to show why caretaker Malaysian coach Ong Kim Swee recalled him into the national squad this month.
Facts and figures
- Perak have only recorded one win in their last 12 matches, 10 of which were losses.
- By contrast, JDT won eight of their last 12 matches in their run-in to the MSL and AFC Cup titles.
- The last time the two teams met in Ipoh, Perak ran out 2-1 winners. But overall JDT have won four of the past five meetings between the teams since 2014.
Perak 1 JDT 3: The visitors are not prone to resting on their laurels.