BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
The second round of the FA Cup quarter-finals will be played this Friday and Sunday, with three ties still very much up for grabs.
Negeri Sembilan vs Sabah
In Seremban, Premier League leaders Negeri Sembilan will host Sabah, currently 10th in the same league, with the Deers having recorded a slim 1-0 first leg win at the Likas Stadium.
The hosts have the better recent record in comparison, having picked up three wins and two draws in their past five matches across all competitions. The visitors meanwhile have won two and lost three.
But the home and away records of the two sides are a lot more telling. Negeri have won all five of their past home matches, while Sabah won one and drew one, and lost three away matches.
Their most recent head-to-head record however is a little closer. Out of their five most recent encounters, Negeri have won two with the remaining matches ending in draws, with both wins recorded this year.
The last time the Rhinos defeated the Deers at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium was on June 19 2015, a Premier League match that ended in a 3-1 scoreline.
Asri Ninggal's men should be able to overcome the challenges of Jelius Ating's charges this Friday, if they are able to perform as well as they have this season.
However, Asri does not want his team to be complacent. He told The Star Online:
“We only have a slim lead. In football anything is possible. I don’t want our players to get complacent.
“We still have a long way to go. So far, the performances have been encouraging but we must still continue to work hard.”
Sarawak vs Terengganu
The only first leg match to have ended in a draw, the 1-1 Terengganu-Sarawak draw will be resumed at the Sarawak State Stadium.
Although the away-goal advantage is with the Crocodiles should the second leg match ends in a goalless draw, David Usop's men, currently 11th in the Super League, can be expected to mount the search for more goals at home.
Having said that, it is inexplicably easier said than done. Out of all five matches that Sarawak have played in front of their own fans this season in all competitions, they have won only one, drawn one and lost three.
The Turtles, currently third in the second division standings, meanwhile have a better recent away record, three wins and two defeats.
The comparison between their recent records too favour the visitors; who have won three matches, drawn one and lost one match in the latest five matches, while the home side have won one, drawn two and lost two.
But the prediction is not so clear cut. Looking at their most recent head-to-head record, it's all even with Sarawak and Terengganu having won two matches each, and one encounter ending in a draw. Furthermore, the last time the Turtles beat the Crocodiles on the road was in April 2014.
And to add to the argument that Irfan Bakti Abu Salim's men are not that much better than David's charges; just last weekend they were hammered 4-0 by university club UiTM FC in their Premier League match.
Irfan told Sinar Harian that his side aim to play for a win this Friday.
"We will not travel to Kuching in search of a draw. So we must find a way to score.
"At the same time our defence must be more airtight," said Irfan.
PKNP FC vs Kedah
Liridon Krasniqi. Mohd Safian/CSN
At the Perak Stadium, Premier League side PKNP FC will host one-time Super League leaders Kedah, with the first leg having ended in a 6-1 win to the Red Eagles.
Despite the huge margin, maybe, just maybe, there is a way back in the tie for PKNP. After all, Tan Cheng Hoe's men have endured a torrid two weeks right after the first leg win, stemming from the head coach's desire to leave Alor Setar and take up an offer from the Malaysia national team set-up'.
A 1-1 draw at home against strugglers PKNS FC in the Super League was then followed by a 5-0 away drubbing by T-Team, their first and only defeat so far this season.
The two sides' recent records are almost similar; with three wins, one defeat and one draw in all competitions.
Furthermore, Abu Bakar Fadzim's men have not lost at home at all this season; having picked up five wins and two draws, while Kedah have been rather inconsistent on the road, with two wins, two draws and one defeat out of their past five away matches.
Foremost on Cheng Hoe's mind is the need for his side to recover from their demoralising defeat to T-Team last week. He told mStar:
"I hope my men will bounce back from the league defeat and qualify for the semis. They surely want to end that low period and recover their spirit.
"I know it's not easy to work on morale and mentality following the defeat, but we do not have time to get carried away, and must recover," expressed the Malaysia Cup-winning coach.
Cheng Hoe added that forward Ken Ilso Larsen will return to the first eleven on Friday following his suspension, but playmaker Liridon Krasniqi is still not fit enough to feature against PKNP.
Even if Kedah failed to recover their form and lost in the second leg, it is unlikely that they would lose by such a huge margin that they lost the tie.
The only tie to be played on Sunday, will be between JDT and Pahang. Stay with us for the preview to the match on Saturday!