MSL 2020 season preview: Reinforcements make Kedah a viable challenger

Kedah v Tai Po, AFC Champions League qualifier, 21 Jan 2019Sports Regime

With the new 2020 Malaysia Super League on the horizon, Goal  will be bringing to you the complete guide to all 12 teams in the competition. Going through the changes in the respective squads to see where they could finish come the end of the season. After Johor Darul Ta'zim, it's Kedah's turn to have their chances measured up for the new season.

How they fare in 2019

In his first ever season in Malaysian football, Aidil Sharin performed a rather incredible job with Kedah last season in guiding them to a fourth place finish in the Super League. Only two sides did better than them in terms of goalscoring, JDT and Selangor. The same is also true in the defensive sense with JDT and Pahang, the only two who have conceded fewer than Kedah.

Fernando Rodriguez was the Red Eagles' top scorer in the league last season with nine goals but the Spaniard has since moved on to join Johor Darul Ta'zim II. Aidil also brought with him a trusted aide in Shakir Hamzah who was one of the outstanding players for Kedah in 2019.

Consistency was the key for Aidil with his team looking largely similar week in, week out. That familiarity and understanding that developed throughout the season saw them never dropping out of the top four for an entire season, not a usual scene when it comes to any Malaysian team bar JDT.

What's new in the squad

A whole lot, that's what. 11 in and 11 out for the first team as Aidil rang the changes for the new season, having given those players a chance to impress him for 10 months. Of the foreign recruits from last season, only Renan Silva and Shakir kept their places in the team while it was departure for Edgar Bernhardt, Rodriguez and Jonatan Bauman.

The core of the local players have been kept though with Baddrol Bakhtiar, Rizal Ghazali and Ifwat Akmal remaining with the team. Malaysian internationals in Hadin Azman and Irfan Zakaria have been added to the fold to bring some form of experience to the team.

But it is up front where all the excitement is. Last season's Super League top scorer Kpah Sherman will be spear Kedah's attack in the new season alongside former Terengganu FC captain, Tchetche Kipre. The combination has already shown what they can do in a short space of time, particularly in that drubbing of Tai Po FC in the AFC Champions League qualifier. 

Who are the key players

Establishing himself as part of the first team furniture when he was only 18 years of age, Baddrol has stayed on since 2006 to remain a true one-club-man. Throughout the years he has played all sorts of positions and functions for Kedah but at 32, the current role at the base of the midfield is one that suits not only his physical capabilities but also his incredible passing range.

A real toss up between Sherman and Kipre for the other key ingredient in Aidil's side but the experience of Kipre just about shades it. The Ivorian is the same age profile as Baddrol and that lends itself to his nous in front of goal. He had a short dry spell with TFC last season but in a new environment and alongside Sherman who could take some of the attention off him, expect Kipre to come to the fore once again.

Where will they finish in 2020

It will be hard to see Kedah overtaking JDT this new season but the main target as well as an achievable aim for Kedah and Aidil will be to narrow that gap. It was 19 points last season but with a new and improved squad, the Red Eagles should be looking to reduce that to at least single digits by the end of the 2020 season.

Finishing second behind JDT is where we see Kedah finishing come end of July and that should see them secure another outing in the continental level in 2020, the AFC Cup. It is progression that Aidil wants to see from his team and that is exactly how he will be judged following a fruitful debut season in the M-League.

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