There may only be six points separating the two sides at the top of the Malaysian Super League (MSL) , with second-placed team Kelantan having a massive five games in hand over leaders LionsXII, but contrary to conventional thinking, the title race is far from over.
The LionsXII may be at a disadvantage at this point, but Kelantan, the nearest rivals of the Singapore side, will need to play four of the top six teams in the MSL standings.
This weekend’s game against Sabah may be seen as a forgone conclusion, but the Red Warriors will have to travel to rivals Terengganu after that, for a much anticipated East Coast derby. Much is at stake in this encounter as Terengganu are chasing second spot, and are under the charge of Peter Butler, who at the start of the season, was at the helm of Kelantan.
Three days after the derby, Kelantan entertain traditional powerhouse Selangor, who have already taken three points from them, inButler’s last game as Kelantan’s manager earlier this season. Do not rule out Selangor doing a double over the defending MSL champions in their own backyard, considering the recent fine form of the Merah Kuning.
The replay of the Piala Sumbungsih clash will take place at Paroi, with Kelantan travelling to Negeri Sembilan for yet another mouth-watering clash. The Seremban-based side has already beaten the Red Warriors once this year in the curtain raiser of the current league season. Kelantan needed a last gasp winner from S Chanturuin Kota Bharu to seal all three points against a determined Negeri Sembilan.
With the seeding for August’s Malaysia Cup at stake, teams will be looking for strong runs to finish in the top four rungs of the MSL. Perak are currently in fourth spot, and the Ipoh side will not go down without a fight at Kota Bharu on July 7.
A contender to end up in the promotion/relegation play-off slots, Felda United will definitely go all out against the defending champions on July 10. Do not expect Felda to bag three points against Kelantan, but a draw may be very valuable in the final tally and could save them from going into the dreaded battle for the single spot left in the top tier of Malaysian Football.
Should these five teams play to their potential, and perhaps claim a major scalp in Kelantan, LionsXII’s chances of retaining their perch at the top of the table come end of the season could turn from a distant mirage into reality.
Our predictions for the title run-in:
Remaining matches for LionsXII (50 points as of 20 June):
vs T-Team – LionsXII win
vs Johor FC – LionsXII win
LionsXII to finish season with 56 points from 26 games.
Remaining matches for Kelantan (44 points as of 20 June):
vs Sabah (H) – Kelantan win
vs Terengganu (A) – Terengganu win
vs Selangor (H) – Draw
vs Negeri Sembilan (A) – Negeri win
vs Perak (H) – Kelantan win
vs Felda (A) – Draw
vs Sarawak (H) – Kelantan Win
Kelantan to finish season with 55 points from 26 games, and LionsXII to win the 2012 Malaysian Super League by a solitary point.