JDT relishing chance to face new teams in the 2018 AFC Cup

Johor Darul Ta'zim, Kaya FC, 2016 AFC Cup, 14/05/2017
Johor Darul Ta'zim's coach, Ismail Ibrahim sent out a strong warning that JDT will be going all out to make the 2018 AFC Cup one to remember.

The 2018 AFC Cup draw took place on Wednesday at the home of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in Kuala Lumpur and it could well be the last time that JDT will be part of the draw, at least for the subsequent two years.

With Malaysia earning a direct slot for the 2019 and 2020 editions of the AFC Champions League (ACL), JDT are hot favourites to be the first Malaysian team in the premier Asian cup competition as they continue to look the strongest team in the Malaysian Super League.

In the draw, JDT were placed in Group H with Persija Jakarta (Indonesia), Tampines Rovers/Geyland International (Singapore) and Song Lam Nghe An (Vietnam). The Southern Tigers looks on paper, the favourites to be one of the two teams to get out from the group and into the ASEAN zonal semi-final.

"This is a new opportunity and teams for us to meet this season, we will be well prepared for the competition. The match against Persija Jakarta will be one to look for because Indonesia did not have a team for last season. We will do our homework and study on the team before we face them." 

"We cannot take this group lightly, because every team will prepare well. But like usual JDT will try to go far in this competition. It may be our last year in the competition as Malaysia will get a direct slot to the ACL in 2019," said coach Ismail Ibrahim after the draw.

So far JDT has confirmed the return of Hariss Harun, Luciano Figueroa and Jorge Pereyra Diaz back to the team for the upcoming new season. Marcos Antonio has retained his place in the team as he continues to work his way back into fitness after an ankle cruciate ligament injury.

Which means there's still one more slot left for an import signing and that would be one with an Asian passport. Brazilian Rafael Coelho who has a Syrian passport has been one that is strongly linked to be the final piece of the puzzle but nothing is confirmed yet.

JDT do have an important ACL play-off against Thailand's Muangthong United in late January 2018 that could see them face a Japanese team in the final play-off round if they get past a Muangthong side that did feature in the 2017 ACL.

"We'll return to training on the 18th of this month. We will look to confirm the final import soon as we'll need to register the team ahead of the playoff against Muangthong. The management will decide on who the player is," added Ismail.

JDT qualified for the 2018 ACL play-off by virtue of being the 2017 Super League champions and if they progress through to the group stage, their place in the AFC Cup will be taken by Selangor.