Persija wary of JDT's prowess but targets progression

Selebrasi - Persija Jakarta
Goal / Abi Yazid
Persija Jakarta says Johor Darul Ta'zim are the team to beat but warns that they will be no pushover despite first AFC Cup appearance in 6 years.

After one year of being out of the AFC Cup due FIFA's suspension on Indonesia's football association, they are back in the 2018 edition and the luck of the draws sees one of those teams being in the same group as JDT in Group H. 

Vietnam's Song Lam Nghe An and one of Singapore's Tampines Rovers or Geylang International will form the rest of the four-team group. Tampines are scheduled to face Indonesia Bali United in the 2018 AFC Champions League preliminary Round 1 in January with Geylang being the replacement should the Singapore side get into the ACL group stage.

Persija only finished fourth in the 2017 Liga 1 Indonesia but gets a direct slot into the AFC Cup due to Bhayangkara FC (1st place) and PSM Makassar (3rd place) not being granted AFC club license to allow them to compete in the regional cup competition.

"Persija has done the required preparations by reinforcing the team. We've taken in players from (Semen) Padang, (Perseru) Serui to strengthen the team. Hopefully we can give a good showing in the AFC Cup."

"Persija haven't been in the AFC Cup for a long time, the last time was in 2011. The target have yet to be decided by the management but of course we want to play well in the Asian stage," Ardhi Tjahjoko told Goal.

Persija has on their books Ramdan Lestaluhu whom fans would remember from Indonesia's run to the final in the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup before losing to Thailand. Another notable name in their ranks will be none other than Bambang Pamungkas.

Now 37 years of age, the striker is well remembered in Malaysia for his time spent with Selangor as well as the many battles between the national teams of both countries.

"This is quite a tough group. We take every team seriously. Every team wants to qualify and we will do our best to get through to the next stage. We know JDT are a good team and one of the best teams in Malaysia."

"Of course we have to be wary and we'll do our homework on them. The coaches will work to ensure that we get a good result against them in the group later," added Ardhi.

JDT will host the first match between the two teams on March 14 with Persija hosting the return fixture a month later on April 10.