Defence on Fandi's mind
Facing an in-form side in a hostile setting, LionsXII will be cautious tonight
TERENGGANU v LIONSXII
(Tonight, 8.30pm, StarHub TV Ch 112/205)
They blew hot and cold in the opening half of the season, but the LionsXII have of late been in terrific form in the Malaysia Super League.
Victories over Kelantan, Perak and Felda United have seen the Singapore outfit climb to fourth in the standings, sitting 10 points behind leaders Pahang.
However, the nine points for Fandi Ahmad's men have all come at their Jalan Besar fortress, where they are unbeaten so far in this campaign.
Tonight, a different test awaits them as they visit the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium to take on an equally in-form Terengganu outfit, who have won their last three matches, beating Sarawak (4-2), Sime Darby (2-0) and ATM (5-1).
Facing a quality side in a hostile atmosphere, coach Fandi is aware his side cannot adopt the same adventurous approach playing at home.
"It will definitely be one of our toughest games this season," he told The New Paper, yesterday.
"Terengganu have won their last three matches and playing away will be very difficult, so we probably will not be as attacking as we have been at home.
"We will probably adopt a more conservative approach where we will look to soak up the pressure and counter, but it is important the players are focused and disciplined.
"We have been a little erratic at the back, but that means we have to tighten up defensively as a group, not just the defence.
"One of the areas I want the boys to focus on is how we play when we are not in possession of the ball."
Fandi does have the option of reinstalling star man Safuwan Baharudin in the heart of the defence, although he is loathe to do so as he feels the 23-year-old has been excelling in his midfield role.
The former Singapore international said: "He's dictating and controlling play and showing good combination with Shahdan (Sulaiman) and Izzdin (Shafiq), so I don't want to disrupt that by putting him at the back.
"We will need to control the midfield, so Safuwan needs to be there."
AMRI INJURY WORRY
There is cause for concern over senior striker Khairul Amri, who came off injured in last Sunday's 2-1 win over Felda, but he travelled up with the squad yesterday morning and remains in contention to lead the LionsXII attack tonight.
Another man who will have a huge say in the visitors' chances tonight is goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, who has arguably been their best player so far.
While he admits the Turtles will pose a massive challenge, the 25-year-old is optimistic his side have what it takes to continue their winning run.
"Terengganu have quality players who are technically gifted like Norshahrul (Idlan Talaha), Ismail Faruqi and Gustavo (Lopez)," said the LionsXII skipper.
"It's going to be a tough game but, after three consecutive wins, it is important that we carry on this momentum.
"We have recovered well after the last game and I believe in the boys."
LINE-UP: Izwan Mahbud, Nazrul Nazari, Madhu Mohana, Zulfahmi Arifin, Shakir Hamzah, Izzdin Shafiq, Safuwan Baharudin, Shahdan Sulaiman, Faris Ramli, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Khairul Amri.
- Felda v Kelantan
- Johor Darul Ta’zim v Sime Darby
- Pahang v ATM FA
- PDRM FA v Perak
- Sarawak FA v Selangor