Possible Malaysia XI vs Timor Leste
Malaysia will face Timor Leste in the Asian Cup qualifying playoff on Thursday and it is anyone’s guess how coach Ong Kim Swee will select his squad.
However, after a fairly disappointing performance against Myanmar, which ended in a 0-0 draw, FourFourTwo reckons something must change and this is how we would field the starting eleven.
Goalkeeper: Khairul Fahmi Che Mat
Still only 27, Khairul Fahmi is the most experienced goalkeeper in the squad and is often Ong’s preferred choice for important matches.
Right-back: S. Kunanlan
This is a no brainer. Kunanlan is playing his best football for the Southern Tigers and will walk into the line-up. The 29-year-old can also be deployed further up the flanks, but right-back is where he has been looking very consistent this season.
Kunanlan is aggressively difficult to beat and his positional discipline is top notch. His overlapping runs will be vital in helping Malaysia get width going forward.
Centre-back: Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak
This defender is not the fastest man around but his reading of the game and commanding presence is needed at the back.
Aidil has been consistent at club level alongside the ever-present Marcos Antonio this season, something the Malaysians need against Timor Leste.
With Safiq still doubtful, Aidil will captain the squad once again.
Centre-back: Shahrom Kalam
Prior to the March call-up, Shahrom was nowhere close to earning a recall despite his impressive performances for the Red Giants since 2014.
But the 30-year-old got his break against Saudi Arabia after Aidil got injured and is set for his third appearance in 2016 if Ong’s selection against Myanmar was any indication.
If fielded, the Shahrom-Aidil combination would be the least tested pairing as Aidil is already used to playing alongside Fadhli Shas and Junior Eldstal.
Left-back: Fazly Mazlan
Still only 22, Fazly has already established himself as JDT’s first-choice left-back this season.
He is on the verge of making the national spot his but he needs to watch his back as half-Welsh Khair Jones and former Harimau Muda star Nazirul Naim are staking their claims for a place in the starting eleven.
In his first-ever start for Malaysia, Fazly was effective in defence against Myanmar and he should have done enough to secure a consecutive start.
Defensive midfield: Brendan Gan
The Kelantan midfielder sat out of the Myanmar friendly but he could be given a start ahead of Junior Eldstal to revitalise the midfield.
Eldstal brings a physical presence and can help win the aerial battles but the visitors aren’t the tallest around and Gan’s pace and agility could be more useful here. Gan is also as aggressive as Eldstal
Gan flourished in this role against Saudi Arabia in March.