Kedah FA vs LionsXII: Wounded Red Eagles looking to bounce back
Hot-and-cold Kedah take on surprise table-toppers LionsXII.
KEDAH FA FORM
- Kedah FA 2-3 JDT II (M’sia Cup)
- Kedah FA 5-0 Terengganu FA (M’sia Cup)
- LionsXII 1-1 Kedah FA (M’sia Cup)
- Kedah FA 2-1 Kelantan FA (Friendly)
- DRB-Hicom 1-5 Kedah FA (MPL)
The LionsXII are slowly but surely getting into the groove after a lacklustre start to the campaign which resulted in them being held 1-1 at home. Two successive late victories notched against Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) II and Terengganu FA mean they are now sitting top of Group A with seven points from three games.
That puts the Singaporeans three clear of Kedah and JDT II and six clear of struggling Terengganu. Barring a major mishap, Fandi Ahmad’s boys should be able to make it into the knockout stages. A win in Alor Setar on Friday night will put them on 10 points, which is usually enough for teams to achieve qualification from the group stages.
While it may seem dangerous to travel to Kedah and adopt a gung-ho attitude, former LionsXII stalwarts Shahril Ishak and Baihakki Khaizan have proved that it can be done. The experienced duo both scored on Tuesday night to inspire JDT II to a shock 3-2 away win against the previously on-song Red Eagles.
- LionsXII 3-2 Terengganu FA (M’sia Cup)
- JDT II 1-2 LionsXII (M’sia Cup)
- LionsXII 1-1 Kedah FA (M’sia Cup)
- LionsXII 3-0 Sime Darby (MSL)
- Sarawak FA 2-1 LionsXII (MSL)
With just three days to recover physically and psychologically from the unexpected result, what kind of response can Kedah FA muster against a motivated LionsXII side?
The Malaysia Premier League (MPL) champions can at least turn to the fact that JDT II are the only side to have beaten them at home this season, with both losses coming in cup (FA Cup and Malaysia Cup) competitions. Otherwise they were undefeated in the MPL at their beloved Darul Aman Stadium, with eight wins and three draws.
Tan Cheng Hoe will be hoping that his lads can recover their swagger, given the clinical way in which they dispatched Terengganu in their second cup game. Five goals in 37 second-half minutes left the Turtles wondering what exactly had hit them.
With JDT II breathing down their necks, a victory is vital if Kedah want to keep their qualification hopes alive and stay in the all-important second spot in Group A. If not, they have to do it the hard way by getting results in the final two group games away at Pasir Gudang and Kuala Terengganu.
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While Fandi has kept the same starting 11 for the last two games, it is highly unlikely that will be happening for a third time.
Sahil Suhaimi proved his worth with a coolly-taken goal against Terengganu, but could be the sacrificial lamb should the gaffer adopt a slightly more conservative 4-4-1-1 formation.
Safuwan would push up to play the No.10 role behind Khairul Amri, while Zulfahmi Arifin or Shahdan Sulaiman could be chosen to partner the ever-present Izzdin Shafiq in the middle of the park.
LionsXII are walking a disciplinary tightrope though, with eight different players one yellow card away from a one-game suspension.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how Kedah shape up after their shock defeat to JDT II, with South Korean defender Bang Seung-hwan itching for a return to the starting 11 after losing his spot to young Osman Yusoff.
Once again they will be banking on their stellar cast of attackers, with the skilful Liridon Krasniqi providing the ammunition for Sandro da Silva Mendonca and Chidi Edeh. The free-scoring duo have so far accounted for 26 out of Kedah's 54 goals in all competitions this season.
Player to watch: Sandro da Silva Mendonca
A total of 14 goals since his arrival in the mid-season transfer window, with five in three Malaysia Cup games so far – that’s how good the Brazilian is.
Sandro has a wide array of abilities – he scores penalties, hits free-kicks, makes late runs into the box a la Paul Scholes and thumps in venomous shots from distance (we need little mention of that rocket at Jalan Besar three weeks ago).
Turning 32 a day before the match, the gifted playmaker will be hoping for the perfect birthday present from this match.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- LionsXII 1-1 Kedah FA (M’sia Cup, Sep '15)
- Kedah FA 1-3 LionsXII (M’sia Cup, Sep '13)
- LionsXII 2-2 Kedah FA (M’sia Cup, Aug '13)
- LionsXII 3-3 Kedah FA (MSL, May '12)
- Kedah FA 0-0 LionsXII (MSL, Jan '12)
The chief orchestrator of last year’s miraculous run to the semi-finals, Kedah’s Tan Cheng Hoe, will be hoping that his side can at least make it out of the group stages this time round.
Meanwhile his LionsXII counterpart Fandi Ahmad is relishing the prospect of leading the side to an unpredecented Cup double, having watched them lift their first ever FA Cup in May.
Facts and figures
- Draws have been quite common when these two teams meet – four out of their five matches have ended up in draws, with the LionsXII picking up a victory on the other occasion
- That solitary victory for the LionsXII came in the 2013 Malaysia Cup group stages where they picked up a 3-1 win in Alor Setar – goals from Hariss Harun, Baihakki and Hafiz Sujad rendering Alen Guc’s strike for Kedah a mere consolation
- Kedah have a strong home record, winning nine and drawing three out of 14 matches in Alor Setar this season
- Meanwhile LionsXII have only five wins and three draws to show for their 16 away games in all competitions this season
FFT.com Editor Zee Ko: Kedah can be brilliant on their day, especially if you ignore that last result against JDT II. Given LionsXII's poor away form, a narrow 1-0 win for Kedah seems a likely bet.
Kenneth Tan: Darul Aman Stadium is never an easy ground to go to, moreover the LionsXII are facing a wounded animal in Kedah. I'm sensing a 0-0 draw might be on the cards.
TODAY's Noah Tan: My gut instinct tells me to go with a 3-1 win to the LionsXII. Back Safuwan to continue his hot-scoring streak.