Terengganu FA vs LionsXII: Can the table-toppers hold their nerve?
Do-or-die for both teams (in terms of qualification for the knockout stages)
Terengganu FA Form
- JDT II 1-2 Terengganu FA (M’sia Cup)
- Terengganu FA 3-1 Kedah (M’sia Cup)
- LionsXII 3-2 Terengganu FA (M’sia Cup)
- Kedah FA 5-0 Terengganu FA (M’sia Cup)
- Terengganu FA 0-0 JDT II (M’sia Cup)
- LionsXII 1-0 JDT II (M’sia Cup)
- Kedah FA 2-0 LionsXII (M’sia Cup)
- LionsXII 3-2 Terengganu FA (M’sia Cup)
- JDT II 1-2 LionsXII (M’sia Cup)
- LionsXII 1-1 Kedah FA (M’sia Cup)
It sounds strange, but the LionsXII could get eliminated from the Malaysia Cup group stages even though they are top of Group A and have accumulated 10 points from five games so far.
Kedah FA are second on seven points with a better goal difference, so a win at already-eliminated Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) II is all it will take for them to qualify. If that happens, it will make the result between Terengganu FA and the LionsXII all the more important.
The LionsXII will qualify as long as they avoid a defeat of two goals or more, but that is obviously easier said than done. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Fandi Ahmad’s side are a different animal when playing away from their beloved Jalan Besar artificial turf.
A solitary win in 11 league games and just five wins (three coming in the triumphant FA Cup run) in 16 games in all competitions tells a grim story. Terengganu will certainly fancy their chances in front of around 40,000 home fans or more at their very own Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium.
There are also other factors pointing towards a Terengganu win. After a lacklustre start to the Cup which saw them collecting just one point from the first three games, the Turtles have picked up at the right time with successive wins against Kedah FA and JDT II.
While they will surely miss the services of Brazilian hit-man Paulo Rangel who terminated his contract with the club through mutual consent, the fact that Norshahrul Idlan Talaha is available for selection after seeing his five-match ban reduced to three matches should more than make up for the former’s absence.
The returning 29-year-old will form a fearsome attacking trident with the pacy Ismail Faruqi and the prolific Issey Nakajima-Farran, who has been a revelation since his mid-season arrival.
Do the LionsXII have enough in their tank to achieve a creditable away result and seal their passage into the last eight? We shall have to wait and see…
Apart from a half-fit Khairul Amri, the LionsXII should be able to field a full-strength team.
Madhu Mohana and Izzdin Shafiq should figure once again in the first eleven after clarifying their yellow-card counts with the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).
The former will reprise the blossoming partnership between himself and Shakir Hamzah at the back, while the latter will look to link up with either Shahdan Sulaiman or Zulfahmi Arifin in the heart of midfield.
Forward Amri has been back in training for the past week, but will likely sit out this match on doctor's orders.
Winger Gabriel Quak has also recovered from the ankle injury which kept him out for six weeks and scored a hat-trick in the 11-1 thrashing of amateur side Jungfrau Punggol last week. However, Fandi believes his player is likewise, not 'match-fit' yet.
Meanwhile similarly, Terengganu FA is clear of suspension troubles with Norshahrul set to make his first appearance since the 5-0 mauling by Kedah in their second group game.
The man nicknamed ‘Mat Yo’ should be the only change to a strong line up which also boasts the sturdy Vincent Bikana at the back and the creative Gustavo Lopez in midfield.
Player to Watch: Issey Nakajima-Farran
It is no secret that if the Lions want to stand any chance of progressing, they will have to stop the red-hot Nakajima-Farran.
The Japanese-Canadian import is turning everything that he is touches into goals recently, with an impressive tally of 12 goals in his last 12 appearances (three in five matches in the Cup, nine in seven matches in the league).
The LionsXII had already gotten a glimpse of his deadly scoring ways back in August when he scored twice in their 4-2 defeat in Kuala Terengganu.
Allowing the former Albirex Niigata (Singapore) man to strut his stuff again will be akin to playing with fire for the LionsXII.
Last Five Meetings
- LionsXII 3-2 Terengganu FA FA (M’sia Cup, Sep '15)
- Terengganu FA 4-2 LionsXII (MSL, Aug '15)
- Terengganu FA 3-2 LionsXII (M’sia Cup, May '15)
- LionsXII 2-1 Terengganu FA (M’sia Cup, May '15)
- LionsXII 1-1 Terengganu FA (MSL, Mar '15)
LionsXII’s Fandi Ahmad will test his wits against Terengganu counterpart Ahmad Yusoff, who has overseen a mini-revival since taking over the experienced Abdul Rahman Ibrahim in July on an interim basis.
Inspiring the Turtles to progress beyond the group stage after a poor start could well land him a permanent contract.
Facts and Figures
- It is fairly even when it comes to the head-to-head records between the sides. In 13 matches, each team has picked up five wins each, while the other three matches ended up in draws
- The only difference is that in those matches, the LionsXII have scored 17 goals while Terengganu netted 16
- Terengganu FA have an excellent home record in all competitions this season, winning 10 and drawing three out of 15 matches.
- In contrast, the LionsXII have only five wins and three draws to show for after 16 away games.
- Issey Nakajima-Farran is the tournament top scorer for Terengganu FA with three, while his LionsXII counterpart Safuwan Baharudin has four.
FFT.com Editor Zee Ko: Terengganu 1 LionsXII 3. No Rangel, no party. Time for the LionsXII to banish their away demons and make a statement ahead of the knockout rounds.
Sunny Mahtani: Terengganu 0 LionsXII 0. Terengganu's goalless streak will continue without Rangel, but the LionsXII are woeful away from home and will likely struggle to find any rhythm on the pitch.
Kenneth Tan: Terengganu 2 LionsXII 1. Nakajima-Farran looks like he’s too hot for the LionsXII backline to handle, but Fandi’s boys should do enough to gain a berth in the knockout stages.