Preview: Pahang and Kedah gunning for that first AFC Cup spot in 2018
The Elephants and The Red Eagles battle for the first major honour of Malaysian football in 2017

The FA Cup reaches it's climax and it'll see Pahang taking on Kedah at Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday night to determine the 2017 champions and the first Malaysian entrant into the 2018 AFC Cup competition.

Pahang have lifted the trophy twice before while Kedah did one better with three previous successes. The Elephants last reached the final in 2014 while the Red Eagles' previous final appearance was back in 2008.

Dollah Salleh took him team to the final courtesy of a 3-1 aggregate win over Negeri Sembilan in the semi-final stage. They had earlier upstaged favourites Johor Darul Ta'zim in the quarterfinal stage but will be going into the final on a mixed run of form.

Pahang have won two, drawn two and lost two matches in their last six fixtures home and away in all competitions. They have moved to replaced Chinedu Bright with Yamil Romero, who interestingly enough, can feature in the final.

Dollah have an almost fully fit squad to choose from and is unlikely to divert too much away from his preferred XI. Wan Azraei should continue in goal while the defence will be manned by Afif Aminuddin and Heo Jae-Won. Syamim Yahya and Nor Azam Azih are the workhorse in midfield, supporting the in-form Matheus Alves.

Syazwan Zainon, Kedah, Mohamadou Sumareh, Pahang, Super League, 19/05/2017

Credit: Pahang FA

As for Kedah, their route to the final was comparatively easier. A comprehensive 4-0 aggregate win over Terengganu was achieved in the semi-final after knocking out another Premier Leauge side, PKNP FC in the quarterfinals.

Caretaker head coach, Nidzam Adzha was left to pick up the pieces after Tan Cheng Hoe had left to assume duties with the national team and it has taken a while for the team to adapt to the team. Their drop in form was a stark one but in recent weeks, Kedah looked to have found their groove once again.

Nidzam will have the luxury of Ifwat Akmal in goal, supported by the duo of Zac Anderson and Khairul Helmi in front of him. Midfield is the undoubtedly the key component for Kedah with Liridon Krasniqi and Akram Mahinan being the engine for the likely front trio of Ken Ilso, Syazwan Zainon and Baddrol Bakhtiar.

There will be interesting battles all over the pitch too look out for on Saturday night. The flexibility of Nor Azam and Syamim in interchanging their positions compared to a more rigid Krasniqi and Akram partnership - the winner there could well help their team lift the coveted FA Cup trophy.

The pace and skills of the wide men in Syazwan for Kedah and Sumareh for Pahang. Matthew Davies will know all about Syazwan having spent months training together with the national team and will look to use that inside knowledge to keep "Karpet" in check. In Fitri Omar, Kedah do have a left back who can at least match the physical prowess that Sumareh offers.

In the final third of the pitch, Anderson will have to ensure that he keeps an eye on Alves whose physicality might be a bit too much for the slighter frame Khairul Helmi to handle. While at the opposite end, Ilso isn't the typical import forward as he relies more on his smart movement than his build, Jae-Won's reading of the game will need to be immaculate.

Had the match been played in February or even early March, Kedah would have been the runaway favourites to lift the FA Cup but circumstances since has changed. The tie is evenly matched as both Pahang and Kedah have sufficient quality players in their ranks to cause trouble to their opponents. 

Both teams tend to play offensive football and that can be a positive thing for the neutrals, if not for their own fans. The final promises to be a sizzler and one not to be missed, whether at the stadium or in front of the television.

Who will lift the 2017 FA Cup?


Kedah Kedah
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