BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
Only two more rounds of matches remaining in the 2017 Premier League season for the first round and competition is heating up for places in the Malaysia Cup draw. The top five teams in the second tier division will qualify for the draw and with only two teams securing their places thus far, it promises to be an interesting affair in the next two round of fixtures.
Negeri Sembilan and Terengganu are currently occupying the top two spots in the division and with 25 and 21 points respectively, are in an unassailable position to caught by the rest and drop out of the top five after the completion of the first 11 matches.
Which means, there's only three more spots left that can be grab by PKNP FC, Johor Darul Ta'zim II (JDTII), UiTM, PDRM, Kuala Lumpur and Kuantan FA. These six teams currently sit from third to eight spot in the league standings. Ninth place ATM on seven points, are out of the running given their seven points gap to existing fifth place UiTM.
While sitting pretty in third spot, having only came up from the FAM League this season - PKNP will have a testing final two matches of the first round as they are slated to take on fellow Malaysia Cup chasers in PDRM and UiTM. Abu Bakar Fadzim's boys will need at least one win from these two matches to secure their qualification.
Comparatively, the prospect for JDTII looks even bleaker as their next two matches are against the top two in the table. Despite only playing three of their nine matches at home thus far, JDTII have done well to get to where they are now. Yet to face defeat at home, JDTII hopes it will be to their advantage when they welcome Negeri Sembilan next.
As for UiTM, the first of their two games is a home game against PDRM on Friday before traveling to the east coast to face Terengganu on Tuesday. Head coach Wan Mustafa Wan Ismail will once again be counting on the goals from the prolific duo of Akanni Sunday (8 goals) and Do Dong-Hyun (7 goals) to give them the final push.
Fauzi Pilus' PDRM side are currently in sixth spot on 14 points and have the aforementioned UiTM and PKNP as their opponents in the next two matches. The former Super League side will at least know that the qualification is in their own hands and do not have to rely on results elsewhere. All eyes will be on Dao Bakary to see if he can increase his current 8-goals tally.
Also on the same points as PDRM, Kuala Lumpur have arguably the easiest run-in compared to the other challengers. A trip to ATM is the first one on the cards before taking on MISC-MIFA at home on Tuesday. With only a +1 goal difference to their name, Fabio Magrao will have to ensure that his side find more goals so as not to suffer the ignominy of losing out on goal difference.
Last but not least is Kuantan, who on only 12 points, are likely to need more than just one win in their remaining two first round matches to ensure qualification. However, head coach Zulhamizan Zakaria will at least be comforted to facing two teams lower in the table than them - in Sabah and ATM. On the flip-side, both are away matches.
The first of the last two first rounds takes place on Friday 14 April. Who will join 11 other teams from the Super League in this year's edition of the Malaysia Cup?