Madhu to the fore as LionsXII plot a turnaround in fortunes

With Afiq Yunos and Safuwan Baharudin both ruled out through suspension, defender Madhu Mohana will play an integral role in the LionsXII’s bid to take down Pahang FA in Kuantan on Friday evening.

The spotlight will be on the 23-year-old tonight as he prepares to start in the heart of defence in the biggest game of their 2014 Malaysia Cup campaign thus far.

With two games left to go in Group A, the Singapore side trail second-placed Felda United by five points and need a win against Pahang tonight to stay in contention for the quarter-finals.

It looks set to be a long 90 minutes in Kuantan, but Madhu is confident that he can step up to the task of shackling Dickson Nwakaeme and company.

“Of course there’s a bit of pressure to face him (Dickson), but it should be fine with Bai (Baihakki Khaizan) helping me,” he told FourFourTwo.

“We all know he’s one of the strongest players in the league, if not the strongest. He’s also good technically; the ball is always glued to his feet and it’s very hard to get the ball off him.

“So we really need to double-team him, deny him space, push him away from our goal and make sure we avoid having him on one-on-one situations.”

It has been an exhausting period for Madhu who had to juggle playing commitments between the LionsXII and his army unit – he played a total of seven games in 12 days, before sitting out the 2-2 draw against Johor Darul Ta’zim II on Tuesday night.

That was a timely rest which he felt will prove beneficial for the crunch game tonight.

“I didn’t realise I have played so many games!” said the lanky defender.

“I played full 90 minutes for all those games and it’s definitely good to have a rest to recover from all the knocks and strains.”

Hopes of further progression in the Cup are admittedly slim with the LionsXII requiring other results to go their way, but Madhu is adamant that the team will go all out so as not to disappoint their fans.

“Obviously it’s always hard to go to Pahang and get a result,” said the former Courts Young Lions defender.

“We’ve not been doing well and the morale is a bit down, but we have to recover now to pay back our fans, especially those who always come down for away games despite win, lose or draw.

“It’s all about desire for this game and we all have to show 110 percent effort. I believe the confidence will come back once we get a win.”

*The clash between Pahang FA and LionsXII will kick off at 8.45pm tonight at Stadium Darul Makmur, Kuantan and the game will be televised on Starhub’s SuperSports Arena (Channel 205).