BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Premier League sides Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) II and UKM FC are both hoping that this year will be the year they finally win their first ever title.
The side formerly known as Johor never won any titles since they were rebranded as Super League champions Johor Darul Ta'zim's second team in 2014.
Their title pursuit also became harder when regulation changes implemented a number of years ago barred second teams from competing in the same competitions as their first team; effectively ruling them and Terengganu FC II out of Malaysia Cup and the FA Cup.
However, the 2018 introduction of the Challenge Cup, a Malaysian post-season tournament for clubs in the top two tiers who do not qualify for the Malaysia Cup, has restored their title hopes, and this year they are two matches away from lifting their maiden trophy.
Having topped Group A and overcame Terengganu II in the semi-finals, they are now set to face off against plucky university club UKM in the two-legged final tie.
"JDT have lifted the Super League trophy while reaching the Malaysia Cup semis, so I hope these achievements will inspire JDT II. We exited last year's campaign at the semi-final stage, and this is the right time for us to do better than reach the final.
After losing out on the Premier League silverware, I hope the Challenge Cup can provide a positive ending to the season, and it's all up to the players. But our chances in the final tie is still 50-50, and it is up to our performance," said JDT II operational manager Sukri Mosman in an interview with competitions organiser Malaysian Football League.
UKM too are looking to win their first ever title as a professional side, since they first entered the Malaysian pyramid in 2015. Although they won promotion to the second tier for the 2018 season, they did so as the 2017 third-tier (FAM Cup) runners up.
Team manager Fairus Shafie is happy to let JDT II head into the match with the favourites title, although the Varsity Boys also reached the final without losing a single game.
"I don't want to put pressure on my players," he said. "I just want them to give their 100 per cent, the result will come at the end. I prefer to view JDT II as the favourites but in football anything can happen.
"But I promise one thing; they won't have an easy time and we will give our all to win the Challenge Cup."
The first leg will be held in Pasir Gudang on October 4, while the return leg will be hosted by UKM at the Kuala Lumpur Football Stadium on October 12.
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