Kota Bharu – When the game kicks off at the Sultan Muhammad IV Stadium on Friday evening, two of the best teams in the 2012 Malaysian Super League (MSL) will battle for bragging rights at the top of the table. Whatever the result is between defending MSL champions Kelantan and current league leaders, LionsXII, the pair will see their league standings unchanged, but it is a result that will play a crucial role in deciding the destination of the MSL title come July.
Despite being five points clear at the top of the table, LionsXII’s position at the summit of the MSL is hardly secure, the Singaporean outfit has already played more games than any other team in the league, including three more than a buoyant Kelantan.
They have just returned from Alor Star, where they overcame a 2-0 deficit to draw level with Kedah in the FA Cup second leg semi-final, a result which saw the Red Warriors qualify for the final on 19 May on the away goals rule.
And morale is at an all time high in the Kelantan camp.
The North-eastern state will see their 25,000-capacity stadium packed by Kelantan fans, as it has been in previous games, with Kelantan head coach Bojan Hodak paying tribute to the red horde.
“I don’t think there are many teams in the world that have the support we do at the moment. I think that the home crowd could play an important role in the game on Friday,” he added.
And Hodak will forget his friendship with LionsXII head coach V Sundramoorthy for 90 minutes as he plans to plot the downfall of theSingaporeside.
“This is a very important match, and if we can win, we will have a good chance of going on to win the title,” said Hodak.
“Sundram is my good friend and we still speak a lot about football, but it will not play a part in this match. I will do what I can to win this match.
“Even if it ends in a draw, it’s still alright for us because the race for the championship will still be open” said the former Jurong FC player who played alongside Sundram in the S-League.
Kelantan will miss the services of Mohammed Ghaddar, Daudsu Jamaluddin and Zairul Fitrie Ishak who are all suspended. Azizi Matt Rose and Abdul Aziz Ismail are long term casualties who are also unavailable.
Despite those absences, Hodak is still confident that his charges will claim the three points at home on Friday.
“The coach can affect the tactical part of the game, but I believe that it is always the players who go out there to decide the game.
“We go into every game in every competition with the mentality of getting the three points, and it will be the same on Friday,” Hodak vowed.
The LionsXII will be putting Kelantan’s proud home record to test, and head coach V Sundramoorthy believes that the unity in the team, will drive the team on to achieve a result in Kota Bharu.
“The boys are a group united and ambitious and they want to achieve something this year,” said Sundram.
“There are plenty of positive signs on the pitch in training as well as in the dressing room.
“In football, anything is possible. If the team can deliver, Kelantan will be under pressure to maintain their unbeaten home record.”
The LionsXII arrived in Kota Bharu on Thursday night without Taufiq Rahmat, Al-Faiz Ishak, Madhu Mohana, Pravin Guanasagaran, Khairuhin Khalid and Shakir Hamzah.
Probable Lineup Kelantan:
Khairul Fahmi, Farisham Ismail, Obinna Nwaneri, S.Subramaniam, Zamri Ramli; Shakir Shaari, S Chanturu, Badri Radzi (Captain), Nurul Azwan; Norfarhan Mohamad, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha
Probable Lineup LionsXII:
Hyrulnizam Juma’at, Juma’at Jantan, Safuwan Baharudin, Baihakki Khaizan, Irwan Shah; Yasir Hanapi, Hariss Harun, Isa Halim, Shahdan Sulaiman, Shahril Ishak (Captain), Khairul Nizam