After a customary month-long break for Ramadan, the Malaysian Super League is all set to resume on July 1. This season though, the traditional gap came at an opportune moment for third-placed Kedah.
After a promising start - which saw them hold defending champions Johor Darul Ta'zim to a 1-1 draw away from home - Kedah lost momentum. A string of stalemates denied them points that could have taken them higher up the group stage. Yet there is still time, and the month-long break would have given the management some time to dissect and devise a plan for the remainder of the season.
Their first game after the break comes against arch-rivals Perak on Saturday. The rivalry is among the oldest in Malaysian football, given that both clubs are over 90 years old.
Yet it was only in the 2006-07 season that the clashes became even bitter between the two teams. After a lengthy season, Kedah got the better of Perak by a mere two points to win their first ever Super League title. Since then, the two Kedah-Perak fixtures of a season are considered among the most exciting in the league.
In March this year, Kedah knocked Perak out of the FA Cup with a 2-0 win in the third round. But the teams shared points in the first fixture of the season. Kedah’s Badrol Bakhtiar had scored in the 71st minute to help his team to a 1-1 draw at the Perak Stadium on April 26.
As the rivalry resumes on Saturday, not only will either team earn the bragging rights, if they win, but they can also use it as a springboard for the remaining nine rounds in the season.
Placed third in the table with 24 points (level with second placed Pahang), Kedah still have a shot at the title as they trail leaders Johor DT by six points. At the same time, Kedah are also sitting in slot that grants them a berth to the AFC Cup group stage.
Meanwhile Perak are in fourth place with 18 points. For the ‘Bos Gaurus,’ winning the league title may be a far-fetched venture, but they are still in contention of overtaking their rivals to the AFC Cup spot – perhaps even a AFC Champions League preliminary round match should they finish in second place.
On the first day after the break, Johor DT are also in action, as they prepare their charge for their fourth successive Super League title. They take on relegation threatened Penang. Second placed Pahang are also in action. They play away to FELDA United.