PREVIEW: Southern Tigers' defence must absorb the onslaught of Angels' goal machines

Johor Darul Ta'zim first eleven against Kedah 20/1/2017
Mohd Hafiz bin Hassan/CSN
Will 2017 be the year JDT finally reach the AFC Champions League? Find out who will likely be fielded, in the match between Bangkok United and JDT.

Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) will play away to Bangkok United FC on Tuesday night at the Thammasat Stadium, Bangkok, in the preliminary rounds of the 2017 AFC Champions League, with the winners advancing to the final playoff round, to take on Japan's Gamba Osaka on February 7.

The hosts are looking to make their second ever appearance in the AFC Champions League, with the last time they ever got to do so all the way back in the 2007 edition, where they crashed out at the group stage.

The 2017 Thai League has not begun yet, but most recently last week the Angels played two high-profile friendlies against J-League sides; Yokohama F. Marinos and Kashima Antlers in an invitational tournament. They lost 3-2 against Yokohama, and recorded a famous 4-3 win over 2016 FIFA Club World Cup finalists Kashima.

The 2016 Thai League runners up are likely to rely on three key players against the Malaysians.

They will likely field Montenegrin attacking midfielder Dragan Bošković, who was the team topscorer in the league last season, having bagged 20 goals.

United head coach Alexandré Pölking will also probably field their second topscorer for last season, Nigerian-born Bahrain international Jaycee John Okwunwanne. The 31-year old scored 19 league goals for them in 2016, and the combination of his and Bošković's goalscoring prowess could spell trouble for JDT defence.

Last but not least is Thai midfielder Sanrawat Dechmitr, a Pirlo-type midfielder who can be relied on for his creativity and razor-sharp passes.

Bangkok United

Bangkok United's likely first eleven against JDT

Meanwhile for JDT, they will not want to be disappointed for the second time in a row, after they were knocked out in the AFC Champions League preliminary rounds last year, by another Thailand side Muang Thong United.

They have achieved what other Malaysian sides have not, by capturing the 2015 AFC Cup title, and they now want to reach greater heights, by becoming the first Malaysian club to reach Asia's premier club competition.

But that maybe harder to come by, considering they just changed head coaches barely two weeks ago. They parted ways with Mario Gomez, the man who took them to said AFC Cup title, just two days before the new Malaysia Super League (MSL) season kickoff, and quickly promoted developmental side JDT II boss Benjamin Mora to replace him.

The Southern Tigers have played two MSL matches this season, drawing 1-1 against Kedah earlier and defeating Felda United 3-1 last Friday, a win that should boost the squad morale. Furthermore, in the pre-season they played three friendlies against Thailand sides; Conburi FC, Air Force United and Buriram United, which should give them a general idea of Thailand sides' strengths and weaknesses.

The 2016 MSL and FA Cup champions will likely depend on three key players against United.

Team captain Safiq Rahim may have quit the Malaysia national team, but the midfielder's role at JDT has grown even more integral. He is the heartbeat of JDT. Running the midfield, Safiq has the guile and guise to be the chief creator for the Southern Tigers.

Argentine forward Jeronimo Barrales was only signed in January, but comes with an impressive resume having played in Argentina and Turkey. His height and power makes him an aerial threat.

Former Selangor forward Ahmad Hazwan Bakri made the switch down south for this season. 2016 was a breakthrough year for Hazwan as he established himself as the first choice forward for club and country. The 25-year old is capable of the spectacular, and is one of the most clinical local players in the league.


JDT's likely first eleven against Bangkok United


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