BY NIK AFIQ Follow on Twitter
Kelantan vs Pahang
One of the interesting fixtures in Super League (MSL) matchday nine involves the second-placed Pahang and the in-form Kelantan. Just before the break, Pahang would probablybe the heavy favorites to win this tie but with the Red Warriors finding their form in their last two matches, they might be able to snatch the tie from the Elephants.
After their two straight defeats at the hands of Selangor and Kedah, Kelantan bounced back in style by recording back-to-back wins and scoring eight goals in the process. After a 4-2 away win at Perak, and also a win at home against T-Team with the same scoreline, Kelantan boss Zahasmi Ismail certainly is hoping for another win. They will also hope that current MSL top scorer, Mohammed Ghaddar will continue his fine form against the Tok Gajah.
For Pahang, despite having lost 3-2 to JDT just before the league stopped for the international break, their 3-1 win over the Southern Tigers in the FA Cup last week should lift the team’s spirit for this weekend's tie. Dollah Salleh and his men displayed a great performance in front of their own fans, and will certainly be hoping to continue the momentum against Kelantan.
For Pahang defender Faisal Rosli, he realised that facing the in-form Kelantan is a huge task for his team, so he is expecting a tough match between the two giants.
Speaking to Berita Harian, Faisal said: “If we look at Kelantan’s record, they have shown improvement and are very good recently so I believe it will be a tight game this Saturday.”
Pahang are certainly the better team in their last five fixtures against each other, winning three games out of five with their last victory in last year’s 2-0 win in the Malaysia Cup.
Perak vs T-Team
Perak seem to adapt slowly to life under new head coach Mehmet Durakovic. They started slowly after the departure of Karl-Heinz Weigang, recording a draw against Felda Untied and a defeat to Kelantan but a win over Durakovic’s former side Selangor just before the break could give a glimmer of hope to the Bos Gaurus’ fans.
Captain Shahrom Kalam has given his backing to Durakovic, saying that the Australian has its own way in building his team.
According to Stadium Astro, Shahrom said; “I am confident that Durakovic has his own recipe for success. I used to play under him in 2014 and 2015.”
Perak will welcome T-Team, who are currently without a win in their last four league matches.
Rahmad Darmawan’s side last victory was back in February against Melaka United and ever since then, they have recorded only two draws, against Felda United and PKNS, and two defeats, against JDT and Kelantan respectively.
The Bos Gaurus have recorded five wins as compared to T-Team’s four in their last 15 games against each other, but both of their last year’s fixtures in the league ended in 0-0 draws.
Kedah vs PKNS FC
Kedah will want to resume the league with a win as they want to maintain their position at the top of the league, but things will be difficult for them as this will be their first time since 2015 that they will be without Tan Cheng Hoe as their head coach.
The Red Eagles are the only unbeaten side in this league this season and their 4-0 win over Melaka United just before the break certainly proved that they are one of the favourites to win the title this season.
However, it will be interesting to see how the team will cope without Tan Cheng Hoe, as he is eyeing a move for a coaching role with the Harimau Malaya .
“This is the best opportunity for me to work in the national body with TMJ. His plans for Malaysian football are good and I want to be part of that. I have already tendered my resignation with Kedah earlier this week, and am waiting to things to be finalised,” said Cheng Hoe to ESPN FC.
For PKNS, they are travelling to Kedah in need of a win if they want to avoid getting drawn into a relegation battle in the upcoming fixtures.
No wins in four games, E. Elavarasan's side currently have eight points after eight games, sitting in ninth on the table, just one point ahead of Sarawak who are currently 11th in the table.
PKNS FC must work hard if they want to come away with three points, as they have failed to get a win over Kedah in their last three matches, with their last win over the Red Eagles coming two years ago in 2015.
Selangor vs Sarawak
Another match that will take place this Saturday is between Selangor against Sarawak at the Selayang Municipal Stadium.
Selangor’s inconsistent performance this season has put them currently fifth in the table with 12 points, but if they wish to mount a challenge againstthe top two teams, then the game against the Crocodiles is a must win game for the Red Giants.
After failing to win their last two matches, Selangor head coach P. Maniam is looking for a response by his team to bounce back and put the pressure on teams above them in the standings.
Selangor will also get a boost after hearing former star, Amri Yahyah wll rejoin the squad this May from Melaka United.
For the Crocodiles, they need to quickly find their rythm if they want to save their season and avoid being relegated to the Premier League next year.
Having collected only two wins so far, and with two straight defeats just before the break, Sarawak however showed a solid performance to get a draw against Terengganu in their FA Cup tie last weekend.
However, a big task awaits David Usop's men as Sarawak have never beaten the Red Giants for the past three years, with Selangor winning five of their last eight matches.
Tan Cheng Hoe. Photo by Mohd Safian/CSN
Felda United vs Pulau Pinang
Felda United will welcome the visit of the struggling Pulau Pinang in Jengka with a good form, having gone unbeaten in their last three games, including a win over Sarawak just before the one-month break, and also after registering their first ever win in the AFC Cup, defeating Ceres Negros FC on Tuesday.
The win couldn’t come at a better time for Felda United, as they look to improve their current position in the table, in seventh.
For Pulau Pinang, their last two matches could be the sign that they are about to kickstart their season, as they recorded back to back draws, and collected their first points of the season.
However there is still a long way to go for them if they wish to rescue their season and new coach, Zainal Abidin Hassan is optimistic and confident ahead of their game against the Fighters.
“Training and preparations are going well and I am confident that we can show a good performance. However, I am sweating over the fitness of four of our players for this game,” said Zainal to Sinar Harian.
Both teams have only met four times before, with Pulau Pinang yet to record a win over Felda United in their last four meetings.
JDT vs Melaka United
Going into this game, fans of JDT are really hoping that their team will find their form again after the Southern Tigers suffered back-to-back defeats in the AFC Cup and FA Cup recently.
Assistant head coach, Ismail Ibrahim admitted that the team were very poor defensively and has urged his players to tighten up the defence for the game against Melaka United.
The JDT social media quoted Ismail as saying: “Our defenders made a lot of mistakes, and so did our midfielders. We will not make the same mistakes in the next match.”
They will host Melaka United, who are also struggling after having gone without a win in their last three games.
Two big defeats at the hands of Kedah and Pahang saw the 2016 Premier League champions currently 10th in the table, one point above the relegation zone and a win over JDT will certainly put some space between them and the danger zone.
With Melaka United only returning to Super League action this season, their last meeting was 10 years ago, with JDT comfortably defeating Melaka United 4-0 at that time.