ATM FA - LionsXII Preview: Revenge mission for Sundram's boys

The new and youthful LionsXII side will look to exorcise the ghosts of their Malaysia Cup 2012 exit when they take on the newly-promoted side on Wednesday evening.


Reuben - Shukor - Irwan - Aizudin

Fainizam - Martelotto - Rezal - Fitri
Surendran - Hairuddin

Lions XII

Faritz - Baihakki - Shakir - Irwan
Isa - Hafiz
Safirul - Shahril(c) - Quak

A brand new season of Malaysia Super League [MSL] action beckons for the LionsXII as they venture into their second dose of footballing adventures across the Causeway.

Their previous campaign saw them exceeding their targets to finish second in the table behind eventual champions Kelantan FA but this time round, it will be a tougher hill to climb.

The Football Association of Singapore [FAS] has adopted an Under-23 policy for the team with only five 'over-age' players included, as part of preparations for the nation's upcoming SEA Games campaign at the end of the year.

After several days of  negotiations with the FAS, the key duo of Baihakki Khaizan and Shahril Ishak are confirmed to be staying with the side - a definite boost to coach V. Sundramoorthy's hopes of doing well in this season opener.

Both players should start this game bar any last-minute injuries, but Bai's fine partnership at the back with Safuwan Baharudin will be disrupted, as the latter will not be available due to National Service [NS] commitments. Shakir Hamzah will likely deputise for him at centreback, with new boy Faritz Hameed coming in at right-back.

Apart from Safuwan, defender Madhu Mohana, midfielders Aqhari Abdullah and Faris Ramli, forward Shahfiq Ghani and reserve goalkeeper Syed Sufiyan are all ruled out due to NS as well. In addition, the influential Hariss Harun and forward Khairul Nizam will be absent due to long-term injuries.

Meanwhile, skipper Shahril will be the key creative outlet with the departure of Shahdan Sulaiman. He should be flanked by the speedy duo of Safirul Sulaiman and Gabriel Quak, with the latter set to make his MSL debut as well.

Without the presence of Agu Casmir and Khairul Amri, the goalscoring responsibility now falls heavily on the shoulders of new forward Fazrul Nawaz, who will have Khairul Nizam as his deputy.

After an impressive AFF Suzuki Cup with the national team, Isa Halim will play an important role in this game - protecting the back four with his combativeness while mentoring Hafiz Sujad, another new addition, in the middle of the park.

Similarly for their opponents ATM FA, losing Malaysian internationals in the form of the Zaquan brothers and Azmi Muslim to Johor Darul Takzim is no small blow.

However, B. Sathianathan's side seem keen to prove their doubters wrong, judging from the way they started their season.

Showing superb recovery skills to bounce back from a 0-1 deficit to draw level against Kelantan in the Charity Shield and subsequently winning on penalties, they will be coming into this tie full of confidence, although they could be slightly jaded.

Midfielder Fainizam Nordin is picked up an injury in that affair but should be fit to start, although Sathianathan could throw in the speedy Christie Jayaseelan in the starting eleven if the former doesn't make it.

Upfront, the charismastic Marlon James is still yet to regain full fitness as he recovers from a knee injury, with indications that R Surendran will start ahead of him. The physical presence of the St Vincent's and Grenadines attacker will be sorely missed, after his last-minute exploits destroyed the LionsXII's hopes of reaching the Malaysia Cup final last season.

With captain Hairuddin Omar starting in attack as well and Bruno Martelotto providing the ammunition from midfield, it could prove to be a long 90 minutes ahead for Sundram's youthful boys.