Fandi hopes for injury-free LionsXII

The new head coach is hopeful that his team will not be blighted by injury problems in the upcoming 2014 Malaysia Super League campaign
LionsXII head coach Fandi Ahmad is concerned that injuries will derail his team’s progress in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) this coming season.

The 51-year-old Singapore legend is gearing his team for the opening game of the season against Pahang FA on Friday, but is worried about the injuries that have already blighted his team so far, especially up front.

“The biggest challenge is the injuries to personnel that we are going to play because we can’t use the same person for every game,” Fandi said in an interview during the pre-season press conference at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Tuesday.

"I am concerned as at one point of time [during the pre-season in Indonesia] we had seven players out injured.

"But we managed to get them back for the last one and a half games. So it shows some improvement because we lost the first game 3-0, and then we won 2-1 and we finally won the last game 1-0 with the full squad in the first half.

“[We want to] get Shahfiq Ghani and Khairul Nizam back. This is crucial because we only have two reliable strikers upfront. That’s why I pray that [Khairul] Amri and Sufian [Anuar] don’t get injured because they have had a history of injuries."

Despite the injury concerns, the former national striker is optimistic that his team will do well this season and identified three senior players who will be key to the team’s chances at retaining the trophy.

“Isa [Halim] is hungry and even Safuwan [Baharudin] who has played in the national team,” Fandi said when asked who were the senior players who would lead the team.

“And Izwan [Mahbud] is a very important factor in our team, as he played most of the season with the national team as well as LionsXII.”

Still, Fandi is relishing working with his group of youngsters to build on the seemingly impossible task of matching the success of last season’s title-winning campaign.

“I always like to develop youngsters,” Fandi declared.

“I was here from 2004 to 2006 and I’ve helped produced many players who are in the current national team like Baihakki [Khaizan], Shahril [Ishak] and Juma’at [Jantan].

“For me, youth is a challenge but I know they will dedicate themselves to the game as they are very disciplined and they listen well. The important thing is that they go out fighting in every game.”

The LionsXII will kick-off the defense of their MSL campaign against Malaysia Cup winners Pahang in a Charity Cup match at the Darul Makmur Stadium on Friday at 8.45pm.