Kelantan - Johor Darul Takzim Preview: Two giants set for FA Cup final clash

The 2013 Malaysia FA Cup Final has all the ingredients to be a classic, as defending champions Kelantan take on the country's big spenders in Johor Darul Takzim
  PROBABLE LINEUPS

KELANTAN

Fahmi
Jamaluddin - Nik Shahrul - Obinna - Zairul
Subri - Badhri (c) - Shakir - Zamri
Indra - Nwakaeme

JOHOR DARUL TAKZIM

Al-Hafiz
Ramli - Tharmini - Kamarul - Nazri
Ezrie - Safiq (c) - Andrezinho - Roya
Nunez - Norshahrul
The final of the 2013 Malaysian FA Cup final arguably could not have worked out better for neutral fans as a cracking game is in prospect with last year’s winners Kelantan taking on the new kids on the block, Johor Darul Takzim. With both sides set to lose out on the Malaysian Super League (MSL) title, this match takes on an even greater importance in their season, as the losers will be looking at the very unwelcome prospect of finishing without any silverware.

For Kelantan, the treble winners of last season, it will be a chance to salvage what has been a slightly disappointing campaign for them. Perhaps expectations were raised too high after last season, and this, coupled with the large volume of fixtures and the loss of Azwan Roya, Mohammed Ghaddar and Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, have all contributed to their lacklustre defence of the league title. If coach Bojan Hodak is unable to capture any of the five trophies available to him this season, then it would be difficult to see him staying at Kota Bharu next season.

Despite a number of troubles in 2013, Kelantan are certainly hitting good form at the right time. Their last two fixtures have seen victories over Terengganu (4-0) and Pahang (2-0), with goals spread throughout the team. In their midweek victory over Pahang, Hodak even had the luxury of resting star players like Indra Putra Mahayuddin and Dickson Nwakaeme; with captain Badri Radzi once again the star performer. With few injury concerns, and much experience in cup finals, it is of little surprise that the Red Warriors are confident heading into this game with Hodak telling Goal: “We had the upper hand when playing in the final for four years in a row and I believe the players are ready.”

As for Johor, things are slightly less rosy in their camp, with manager Fandi Ahmad getting increasingly frustrated as his team's falters. The words by Bojan Hodak saying that “Darul Takzim are not playing their best football at the moment, they have virtually lost the league title and are mentally affected by it, the pressure is on them”; seem to be ringing true. After their massive spending spree this year, the expectation is on instant success, something Fandi seems to be more than aware of as he lashed out at his players after their recent 1-1 draw with lowly Felda United.  The ex-Singapore international accused his players of lacking determination, being too complacent and not having the right mentality to win; hardly an ideal preparation for the final.

Despite all this, the Johor coach told Goal that he is “more worried about the players that we might miss for this match,” with key defender Aidil Zafuan suspended and Safee Sali, Safiq Rahim and Andrezinho all carrying knocks. However to their credit, one thing Johor have displayed this season, especially in the FA Cup, is a never-say-die attitude. Against Kedah and Selangor they looked dead and buried, only to win via penalties, and in the semi-final against Pahang they showed great resilience to progress on away goals. With such spirit, and undoubted quality in players such as Azwan Roya, Norshahrul, Andrezinho and Leonel Nunez, it would be foolish to write them off before this game.

  DID YOU KNOW?
  • This season, Johor are unbeaten against Kelantan with a 1-1 draw in Kota Bharu and a 2-0 victory in Larkin.
  • Johor Football Association President Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim will reward two outstanding JDT players with an SUV Audi Q7 each if the team wins the FA Cup.

  • This is the first time in two years that the two sides will meet in an FA Cup match.
  • Kelantan were set to exit at the semi-final stage before Obinna Nwaneri scored a goal in the 95th minute versus Terengganu.

  • Last year Kelantan won the FA Cup with a 1-0 win over Sime Darby FC, courtesy of a Ghaddar penalty.