Under normal circumstances, the winner of the FA Cup would be the one taking their place in the AFC Champions League (ACL) alongside Super League champions Johor Darul Ta'zim FC. However with Pahang serving the final year of their ban from AFC competitions set by Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), Perak gained from their counterpart's misfortune.
Finishing runners-up to JDT in the league propelled Perak to a place in the early qualifying round of the ACL where they will come in at the Preliminary Round 2. Perak were drawn against Hong Kong's Kitchee FC and with Malaysia's AFC Club rankings higher than Hong Kong, Perak Stadium became the venue of the one off match.
The match will take place on February 12 2019, after two Super League matches have been played by Perak against JDT and Kedah respectively. That will help to build Perak's fitness but it would not be comparable to Kitchee who are currently in the midway stage of the season in the Hong Kong Premier League
"As a coach you want to win friendly games, let alone ACL games or AFC games or league games. For me every game is important. The more you win, the further you go. The players are training hard. We've got a few friendly games coming up in the next week and the half. We're getting there," Mehmet Durakovic told Goal.
Durakovic's cautious tone is understandable given how tough the route of the qualification is. Under the existing format, JDT first started to feature in the preliminary rounds back in 2015. In the four attempts since, JDT have only made it past the Preliminary Round 2 once and even then found Gamba Osaka to be too tough a stumbling block in the Play-Off stage.
Should Perak succeed in showing Kitchee out of the competition, then the unenviable task of trying to do the same to South Korean club Ulsan Hyundai awaits in the Play-Off stage. It would be a major upset if Perak were able to triumph against the mighty Korean club.
Perak has thus far only added J. Parthiban, Zac Anderson and Shahrel Fikri to the team with the majority of the team that did so well in 2018 being rewarded with another year's stay in the team. Even though Durakovic can sign another import player for the ASEAN slot, the head coach from Australia looks happy enough with his current squad and have little intention to use the quota in full.
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