Key Battles: Pahang vs Selangor

League leaders Pahang take on second-placed Selangor at Darul Makmur on Saturday, and Goal gives you the most probable who's who of the match

GOALBY    ZULHILMI ZAINAL     Follow on Twitter

Pahang's Jamaican centreback will have his hands full trying to stop current MSL topscorer Paulo Rangel. The fact keeps getting repeated, but when Rangel does not score, Selangor are most likely to not win the match. All defensive attention must be paid to the Brazilian, and if it is successful, Saturday night's visitors will turn impotent, especially when their other strikers' performance is nowhere near Rangel's. Another point that should bring relief to Stewart is the fact that Selangor are somewhat goal-shy in the league, having scored only 17 goals this season, only the sixth best in the league.
Despite leading the topscorers chart, Selangor's Brazilian lifeline is finding himself getting increasingly shut out during the recent matches. He has failed to score in their last two league matches, as teams and head coaches have started concentrating more on him when playing Selangor. Furthermore, he has so far failed to assert himself as a big-game player, as proven in their away defeats to Arema, Ha Noi and JDT this season. Saturday's encounter between the league-leaders and the second-placed Selangor are crucial to deciding who has the gumption to take it all the way to the end, and Rangel needs to step up his game on that night, JDT's recent interest in him be damned.

The Perak-born midfielder will have to help his forwards in going forward against Selangor. Although Pahang have the best scoring record in the league this season, they will be entertaining a team with the tightest defence line, and Hafiz will have to knock down this wall to let his forwards slip through. Furthermore, Pahang head coach Zainal Abidin Hassan will also probably be counting on his freekick prowess to find the net, especially in the dying minutes of the match if things do not go their way.
Following the departure of Junior, the diminutive Indonesian winger found himself playing a bigger role with each coming match, and to the delight of Selangor fans, Andik has been facing his new challenges head-on. His performance against LionsXII and Terengganu hinted at better things to come from him, and what better time for this to bear fruit than in their match against Pahang. Critics have been suggesting that he be given a free role in the squad, instead of his current role as a winger. With Rangel failing to score in the past two league matches and the backup strikers proving to be a liability more than asset, perhaps Andik should be unleashed at Darulmakmur this Saturday, if Selangor headcoach Mehmet Durakovic are serious about capturing their first league title in four years.

The Argentine may not forward have bagged as many goals as Rangel have this season, but his team have benefited from his ability to stand his ground in important matches, elude opponent defenders who are much more physical than he is, and score when it really matters. Against almost airtight Selangor, Conti must use these abilities again to triumph over them and keep distance with the title rivals.
If Selangor forwards are not as successful in finding the net as their rivals are, thankfully their own net is also just as quiet. They have conceded only 11 goals in the league, the best defensive record so far. Part of this is due to the steadily-improving form of their defender Shahrom Kalam. But Pahang are a different kind of beast altogether, having scored 27 goals in the league, and will score more playing in front of their own fans this Saturday, if Shahrom and his defensive line slip up. His on-the-line handball against Arema led to their defeat and eventual exit from the 2014 AFC Cup, and it is this kind of desperate mistakes that he must avoid from committing against Pahang, if he wants to keep improving and help his team capture the top spot from the home side.