BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Negeri Sembilan head coach Jorg Steinebrunner is confident that his side is ready to compete in the Super League, despite the fact that they were promoted to the top tier as a replacement side.
After the 2017 season ended, Felda United and T-Team FC were demoted to the Premier League due to club licencing issues and restructuring respectively, and fifth-place finishers Negeri were selected as one of the two clubs to replace them in the top-tier.
After Negeri Sembilan's 2018 team launch event on Wednesday, the German told the press that the team had wasted no time in preparing for their first season back in the Super League since 2013.
"We prepared early," said the 45-year old trainer. "Even if we had stayed in the Premier League, we would have assembled a team that is strong enough to challenge for a place in the Super League.
"We are on the right track, selected the local players very early, and by today we have the full team assembled. We have a very competitive team and we are ready to approach every game positively, and winning every game should be our target and mindset. We should be positive all the way."
He is also counting on the experience of new local and foreign players signed by the club in the pre-season.
The foreign players signed by the club include Singapore defender Madhu Mohana, Brazilian midfielder Flavio Beck, former South Korea international Kim Do-heon, Argentinian forward Nicolás Vélez and Latvian centre back Renārs Rode. They too have signed seasoned Malaysian journeyman Fauzan Dzulkifli.
In the event, Do-heon was announced as team captain while Fauzan has been appointed as his deputy.
The 2018 Negeri Sembilan squad during the team launch event. Photo by Zulhilmi Zainal
"The experience of Kim, Nico, Flavio will certainly help us. Not to forget Fauzan who's an experienced player. We should be well-prepared for the league," he remarked.
The former Warriors FC boss also said that the boisterous home support will contribute to the team's challenge this season.
"Paroi should be a home fortress again, last season we did not lose a single game there. I think in the league and the cups, so long as we played at home we should be putting up a good fight.
"Away from home, we need a positive mindset and try to win the game," said Steinebrunner.
The change in the competitions schedule too has allowed him to focus better on their league campaign, said the coach when asked by Goal.
Last week, M-League organiser Football Malaysia LLP announced that the leagues and Malaysia Cup will no longer run concurrently beginning this season, reverting to the season scheduling used before the 2016 season.
"Malaysia Cup is a prestigious competition and the highlight of the year, so clubs must always field the best team and play the best football, because that's what the supporters want to see, isn't it?
"(In the previous scheduling) you have to make a lot of decisions. When it was contested at the same time as the leagues, at the time Premier League teams were fighting for promotion, Super League clubs were battling relegation. I've had to justify my line-up.
"The decision to move it to the end of the season is a good and wise decision, because then you will no longer be caught in a situation whereby you have to choose between the league and the cup.
"You will see more supporters coming back too, and the intensity and the quality of Malaysia Cup matches will increase again this year," explained Steinebrunner.