Sime Darby's Ismail Zakaria expects tough challenge from Selangor and PDRM in Malaysia Cup

The 52 year-old head coach also thankful that this year's edition allows longer preparation time before first matchday

GOALBY    ZULHILMI ZAINAL     Follow on Twitter

During an Iftar event held by Sime Darby FC for the media on Saturday at the Sime Darby Convention Centre in Damansara, head coach Ismail Zakaria who was present took the time to answer questions fielded by the press. The outfit who had been promoted to the Super League from the Premier League at the conclusion of the 2013 season, exceeded all expectations by finishing the league at fifth, higher than the more established sides such as Kelantan, LionsXII and Sarawak. They have been drawn in Group D of the 2014 Malaysia Cup alongside Selangor, PDRM and T-Team.

When asked about his charges' preparation for the competition, Ismail let on that his boys have been focusing on their fitness throughout the fasting month. When inquired by Goal earlier, a team official explained that during the fasting month, the team practise together after the nightly Terawih prayer. Ismail also added that unlike last season's competition which began only five days after the fasting month ended, this year teams will get ample time to prepare as their first match will only take place around two weeks after the fasting month ends. He revealed that he will use the period to get all his players to maximum fitness by resuming normal training. On top of that, they are also scheduled to play recent FA Cup champions Pahang in a friendly on 25 July.

Ismail also revealed that his target for this year's competition is the semi-finals. Last year they reached the quarter-finals before they were knocked out by Sarawak. However, he was quick to admit that this may be a lot harder to achieve than it seems. He opined that as an end-of-the-season competition, teams that have failed to perform well in the league and FA Cup usually double their effort to achieve better results in the Malaysia Cup. In regards to this opinion, he was then inquired whether since his team did very well in the league, he is afraid of the opposite happening to his team in the Malaysia Cup. He replied that anything can happen in football, and Sime Darby will do their best.

When asked about their chances against one of the opponents they will be facing in Group D, the high-flying Premier League champions PDRM FA who had lost their head coach Dollah Salleh to the Malaysia national team, and whether this loss will result in a more favourable outcome to Sime Darby, the 52-year-old responded that this may not be the case. He explained that PDRM still have the same players who have won them the premiership and promotion to the 2015 MSL, and their replacement head coach may just achieve greater success at the helm. He lastly added that they expect to face the sternest challenge from PDRM and recent MSL runners up Sime Darby.