The defending Malaysian Super League champions will hope to keep their unbeaten record at Jalan Besar intact when they play their first home league game of the 2014 campaignAfter notching their first win of the season in the Malaysia FA Cup with a 3-0 cruise against DRB-Hicom FC on Tuesday, the LionsXII will find themselves up against tougher opposition next on Saturday.
The defending Malaysian Super League (MSL) champions face Selangor FA in their first MSL home game of the 2014 campaign, having already lost the opening tie 1-0 away to Pahang FA last week.
With the tie shifted back to Jalan Besar Stadium after re-turfing works were completed earlier than expected, it should give the players an extra fillip. Under predecessor V. Sundramoorthy, the LionsXII dropped only two points as they went through the campaign unbeaten at home and eventually won the title.
New coach Fandi Ahmad will hope to continue that streak as he makes his debut at Jalan Besar and he will likely have key centre-back Safuwan Baharudin available.
The 22-year-old took a knock to his knee in the DRB-Hicom game but returned to training on Thursday evening along with Faritz Hameed, who had his toe stamped on.
Upfront, Khairul Amri looks ready for a return to partner Sufian Anuar, which will give Fandi decisions to make about who to include in midfield. Zulfahmi Arifin controlled the game after being withdrawn into a deeper central role during the second half on Tuesday, with Hafiz Sujad also causing problems in an advanced role.
The Red Giants, regarded as one of the title favorites, got off to a winning start in the MSL by disposing of T-Team 2-0, with Brazilian marksman Paulo Rangel hitting both goals. The striker, on loan from Thai side Muangthong United, grabbed another in their FA Cup win over Harimau Muda C, with fellow import Juninho scoring the other in a 2-0 win.
There is no doubt that the 28-year-old Rangel will be the main threat to the LionsXII and he will be ably assisted by the likes of Andik Vermansyah, S. Kunalan, Ahmad Hazwan Bakri and Abdul Hadi Yahya.
It will be a tough opening home game for Fandi and his charges and they will hope to count on the vociferous support if they are to get a result here.