BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Although Selangor have performed relatively well since the second stretch of the M-League season kicked off on July 1, in the past week or so head coach Maniam Pachaiappan's men have stumbled, suggesting that they are close to running out of steam.
A record of five wins and two draws was soured by a 3-1 Super League (MSL) defeat to Felda United on July 26, and a shock 2-1 defeat to Sarawak in their Malaysia Cup group match on August 2.
Their crocklist too has grown longer, with several players sidelined by injuries and lack of fitness. On top of Rufino Segovia and Raimi Noor who will be out of action until next month, Liberian forward Forkey Doe is a doubt for their round 19 MSL match against JDT at Selayang on Saturday. Doe also did not feature against Sarawak.
"Doe is injured and needs to be assessed today (Friday) to see whether he is available against JDT.
"The same goes with Andik [Vermansah] who has been experiencing discomfort in his knee. I'm not sure whether he can start, I hope he can.
"But Amri [Yahyah] can start, and I think he will start," he told Goal in a telephone conversation on Friday.
He also blamed fixture congestion for the worsening performance of his men, namely the fact that they have been conceding more in the past few matches.
After Saturday's match, the Red Giants (as well as other M-League teams that have qualified for the Malaysia Cup) will have played eleven matches in the space of 36 days.
"It (conceding) is because we have wad to play a lot of games. The players' concentration is not there and they are fatigued... and the opponents have taken advantage of the situation," remarked the trainer.
But with the hectic stretch of the season coming to an end because of the one-month break given for the SEA Games and the national team preparations after Saturday, Maniam admitted that he can breath a sigh of relief, as his men can now recuperate and regroup.
"We've been waiting for this moment. We'll have a seven or eight-day break, but after that we'll have to prepare the team again.
"Preparation is the key to the team playing better. This past month we haven't had time to train properly, but with the break coming we can finally do it," explained the 48-year old trainer.
However, first things first, they want to avoid leting JDT come away with the three points this Saturday, as a win will confirm the visitors as this season's MSL champions; their fourth consecutive league title.
"Our fans will be at the stadium, and they surely will not want to see that happening on our home ground.
"We have to play for the supporters and show our determination. We know JDT are a good side, but we must show courage as we play for Selangor.
"With the fans' support and our 200 percent effort, nothing is impossible," Maniam remarked.
However, as JDT's lead in the standings is massive at 11 points, a defeat or draw for the Southern Tigers may still be enough for them to confirm the title win, depending on the result of second-placed Kedah's match against third-placed Pahang.