Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) may finally put a real interest back into the Malaysia Cup as they prepare to face Melaka United in the quarterfinal first leg at Hang Jebat Stadium on Friday night.
After a couple of seasons of concentrating in the league campaign as well as the AFC Cup, circumstances elsewhere meant that Ulisses Morais can put his team in 100% focus in trying to win the Malaysia Cup for the first time since the formation of the club.
While training for the team had resumed towards the end of August, Morais hasn't always had the chance to work with the entire team, what with some of his players being involved in the 2017 KL SEA Games as well as the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers.
That also was part of the reason why his team against Selangor in the final group match last Saturday was a far cry from his best XI. With the players now back, the absence of Marcos Antonio is the only blip in the preparations.
"For the match against Melaka, I hope the players will not slack off against the opposition team in the first leg of the Malaysia Cup quarterfinal. Almost 50% of the Melaka players are new players and they have a new coach who can pose a challenge."
"Regardless, I will put together the best JDT starting line-up to ensure we take home a comfortable lead for the second leg at our place later. Previously we made preparation without Safiq Rahim, Amirulhadi, Aidil Zafuan, Hazwan Bakri and Darren Lok. Now they have rejoined the training with the team and allowed me to field our strongest line-up.
"We will not underestimate the opponents because they might have saved energy to face JDT and, as everyone knows, any team facing JDT will fight to the finish. So, we need to be cautious," said Morais in an interview posted up on JDT's social media.
All signs points towards Morais selecting his bext available line-up as he goes in search of a big first leg win that will make proceedings far easier for the return leg in Johor Bahru.
It remains to be seen if the fours players will all return to the starting line-up. Hazwan and Darren's chances are slim considering that Morais has the option of Mohammed Ghaddar available to him, despite Darren's improved performance for the national team.
Aidil and Amirulhadi may also start from the bench as Junior Eldstal and Afiq Fazail could be the preferred option in defence and midfield respectively.