Safiq eyes Muangthong scalp ahead of Thailand move
With Thai outfits the benchmark for Southeast Asian representation in the competition, midfield maestro Safiq is expecting a tough encounter against their opponents on February 2.
JDT had already experienced a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Bangkok Glass at this stage last year and Safiq knows what to expect when his side visit the SCG Stadium to battle for a place in the third and final qualifying round of Asia’s premier club competition.
Yet it will be a different JDT that takes to a Thai pitch this time around according to Safiq – a team that can now count on the talents of Argentine Mario Gomez and empowered by their AFC Cup triumph last term, establishing them as the first team from the region to do so.
“Winning the AFC Cup last year was something really special for myself and the club. It shows that Asean clubs can also enjoy success in continental competitions and most importantly, it brought hope and confidence to Malaysian football,” Safiq told FourFourTwo in Thailand.
“We’re looking to go further this year. We’ve won consecutive Malaysia Super League (MSL) titles and tasted success in the AFC Cup, so right now the focus would be to progress in the Champions League.
“We didn’t do well last year. We lost heavily in the qualifying play-off. This year, we’re looking to turn things around.
“Muangthong are a very good team and even considered one of the best clubs in Thailand. It would be very hard for us to play against them, but I truly believe that we’re stronger than last year and have it in us to cause a surprise.”
Safiq enjoyed a stellar season with Malaysian champions in 2015 despite it being a terrible period for the national team.
The 28-year-old scored seven goals in JDT’s title-winning campaign and five on the continental stage. Safiq picked up the AFC Cup’s Most Valuable Player accolade, followed by the Most Valuable Player and Best Midfielder awards at the Malaysian Football Awards.
After a season laden with personal and team success, Safiq insists he is still happy to continue at the Southern Tigers, but conceded a move to Thailand could be too good to turn down if clubs there come knocking.
“I’ve been hearing a lot about football in Thailand late,” he added. “Their national team are doing really well in their World Cup qualifying campaign and their domestic clubs are improving significantly too.
“I know there are several players from Singapore and Indonesia playing here (in Thailand) already. Every player from this region wants to play here.
It is the greatest league in the region and if I have the opportunity, I’d like to come here as well. But as things stand, I’m giving my best for JDT."