Malaysia Super League 2018 Preview: Terengganu, Selangor, Perak

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Goal Malaysia
Just one day to go before the 2018 Malaysia Super League kicks off, so find out our predictions for the coming season!

Also check out parts 1 and 2!

#6: TERENGGANU

Head coach: Irfan Bakti Abu Salim

Notable transfers in: Fitri Omar (Kedah), Ashari Samsudin, Wan Azraie Wan Teh (Pahang), Malik Ariff (Kuantan FA), Lee Tuck (Negeri Sembilan), Igor Zonjic (FK Rad), Park Seung-il (FC Anyang), Thierry Chantha Bin. 

Notable transfers out: Gabriel Davis Dos Santos (Nongbua Pitchaya), Ferris Danial Mat Nasir (Negeri Sembilan), Issey Nakajima-Farran, Lázaro Martins 

The Turtles return to the top tier following a brief spell in the Premier League, and under no-nonsense head coach Irfan Bakti Abu Salim, they are expected to do well this season.

Irfan Bakti Abu Salim, Malaysia Premier League, 26092017

Terengganu celebrating their Super League return with Irfan last season. Photo from Terengganu FC

Their pre-season signings seem top-notch, at least on paper. They have signed dependable defender Fitri Omar, one of 2017 Premier League topscorers Malik Ariff, Negeri Sembilan's Lee Tuck, while acquiring the service of French-Cambodian midfielder Thierry Chantha Bin for their ASEAN slot. Meanwhile, former players Ashari Samsudin and Wan Azraie Wan Teh have also returned from their season-long spell at Pahang.

With Irfan at the helm last season, the Turtles recovered their form after a dismal 2016 that led to relegation, turning in a solid performance to earn them a quick return. This season they should be playing even better under the the 66-year old coach, and should be good enough to end the season in the mid-table position.

Important fixtures:

Their matches against other East Coast sides have provided high-quality entertainment to the fans, and this season there are three of them in the league.

Only on matchday two on February 6, they will be playing away to East Coast derby rivals Kelantan, with the return fixture in Kuala Terengganu in July 22.

The Turtles meanwhile will host Pahang on May 1, before playing away to them less than two weeks later on May 11.

 

#5: SELANGOR

Head coach: Maniam Pachaiappan

Notable transfers in: Evan Dimas Darmono, Ilham Armaiyn (Bhayangkara FC), Alfonso de la Cruz (Ebro), Willian Pacheco (Persija), Sean Selvaraj (Negeri Sembilan), Azamuddin Akil (JDT), Joseph Kalang Tie (Pahang).

Notable transfers out: Adam Nor Azlin (JDT), Ugo Ukah, Fittri Shazwan, Raimi Noor (Pulau Pinang), Zarif Irfan Hashimuddin (PKNS), Bunyamin Umar (Pahang), Rizal Fahmi Rosid (Negeri Sembilan), Veenod Subramaniam (Kelantan), Nurshamil Ghani (Melaka United, loan end), Andik Vermansah, Forkey Doe, Afiq Azmi.

Selangor, 28012018

Selangor during their 2018 jersey launching

The Red Giants will participate in the 2018 season with an even younger squad, having promoted more players from their U21 squad who won the 2017 President's Cup. It's always nice to see teams relying on young players, but it must be admitted that the decision was made partly to decrease the size of the cash-strapped club's wage bill.

However, if there's one coach who is adept at getting the most out of a young squad in the MSL, it is Maniam, and we predict that they can improve their sixth-place finish last season, if not equal it.

Furthermore, Maniam managed to make a last-minute signing; Spanish defender Alfonso de la Cruz who should bolster the team on two fronts. Firstly, Maniam had earlier wanted to sign only four foreigners, which would have put them at an disadvantage. Secondly, the Spaniard will be fielded as a defensive midfielder, an area that was Selangor's weakest link in 2017.

The signing of towering Brazilian defender Willian Pacheco from Indonesia's Persija too should provide the team with a capable aerial marshall in the defence.

Most excitingly, they signed two of Indonesia's hottest prospects; Evan Dimas Darmono and Ilham Armaiyn from Liga 1 champions Bhayangkara FC, but their arrival could turn out to be a double-edged sword. They have shown potential, but are expected to be away from the club repeatedly this year due to national team commitments agreed between Indonesia and Selangor.

Ilham Udin Armaiyn, Evan Dimas Darmono, Selangor, 09012018

Ilham and Evan

They did not sign many new local players, but Azamuddin Akil and Joseph Kalang Tie are big enough names to inspire confidence and provide experience.

On an individual level, Maniam too has to prove that he deserves to be a top tier coach, by making his team punch above their weight this season. 

Important fixtures:

The return of Klang Valley derby rivals Kuala Lumpur means fixtures between the two will be among the most anticipated matches in the league. And fans will not have to wait long for the first match, as the Red Giants will play away to the City Boys on the very first matchday, at the KLFA Stadium. The return fixture will be played on July 14.

Another fixture involving the 33-time Malaysia Cup champions to look forward to is the ones against champions JDT. Although the Southern Tigers have unseated Selangor from the throne of Malaysia's glamour club, last season Maniam's men managed to beat JDT in both of their home matches. This season, JDT will host Selangor first on May 1, and the return fixture will be played on May 11.

 

#4: PERAK

Head coach: Mehmet Durakovic

Mehmet Durakovic, Perak

Mehmet Durakovic. Photo by Perak FA

Notable transfers in: Wander Luiz (Al-Raed), Misagh Bahadoran (Global), Robert Cornthwaite (Western Sydney Wanderers), Brendan Gan.

Notable transfers out: Abdul Hadi Yahya (Marcerra United), Shahrom Kalam (Felcra FC), Thiago Junio (Felda United), Jasazrin Jamaluddin (Pulau Pinang), Yashir Pinto (Curicó Unido), Zaquan Adha Abdul Razak (Kuala Lumpur).

2018 will be the second season of Australian head coach Mehmet Durakovic at Perak, and if his previous stint at Selangor is of any indication, the Bos Gaurus can only improve.

Appointed halfway through last season as the late Karl-Heinz Weigang's replacement, this season Durakovic is involved in the player selection, and he made several promising signings. He snapped up Australian-born Brendan Gan, now fully-recovered from his lengthy ACL injury, as well as former Western Sydney Wanderers captain Robert Cornthwaite, who starred in the Selangor team that Durakovic guided to the Malaysia Cup silverware in 2015.

But this is anything but an effort to get the old team back together, as evident through his axing of forward Abdul Hadi Yahya and last season captain Shahrom Kalam, both also members of Durakovic's title winning team in 2015.

2018 is a season to look ahead for the Bos Gaurus, and they have signed Brazilian forward Wander Luiz, as well as Philippines international Misagh Bahadoran to their ASEAN slot.

Misagh Bahadoran, Perak TBG

Bahadoran and Wander Luiz. Photo by Perak FA

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Important fixtures:

Their matches against JDT constantly produced sparks last season, and it should not be any different this year. They will host JDT first on April 2, with the return fixture on June 1.

Their northern derby against Kedah last season too produced some attractive football, and this year they will be meeting on Ferbruary 7 and July 20.

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