In the two previous seasons, this match has always seen Johor Darul Ta'zim hosting Kedah but 2019 represents a new beginning as Perak replaces Kedah to vie for the first trophy of the season. Having had more than two months break from the last domestic match until yesterday, a variety of things has evolved and changed for both teams heading into the match.
Goal picks out five interesting things to look out for in tonight's big kick-off.
Can Shahrul build on the stellar AFF performance?
The 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup was a commendable outing for Malaysia in reaching the final and finishing runners-up to Vietnam. The subsequent Asian Cup would prove just how good Vietnam is and thus made Malaysia's achievement even better. At the head of it all was Shahrul Saad's performance at the heart of Malaysia's defence.
Outstanding in the air, rarely gets his timing wrong in tackles and has the ability to distribute; Shahrul is the complete centre back who has improved leaps and bounds since nailing a permanent role in that position for Perak. Now into the 2019 season, he has to continue the progression and prove that 2018 wasn't just a flash in a pan for him.
Has JDT found the perfect replacement for Marcos Antonio?
For a long time, Antonio was JDT's best signing. The one who stayed the longest and produced the highest level of consistency in his game. But the five-year stay with The Southern Tigers came to an end after the completion of the 2018 season. Now it's Mauricio dos Santos' time and he has big boots to fill.
There's no doubting the experience that Mauricio possess. At 30 years of age and a career spanning from Brazil to Portugal to Italy; Mauricio definitely has the credentials to at least match the contributions of Antonio. Will not be facing the burly presence of Gilmar Filho will also test non-physical attributes that Mauricio has.
Will Shahrel impress as Gilmar's replacement?
Shahrel Fikri wasn't signed on loan to be Gilmar's replacement but rather to offer options to Mehmet Durakovic when situation calls for it and the situation has reared its head right from the first match. Gilmar is of course suspended following the red card he received in the final of the Malaysia Cup last year and this opens up the chance to give Shahrel the audition he craves for.
Has the ability to find goals as is proven during his time with PKNP FC, where he is more of a big fish in a small pond. Whereas at Perak, he would be considered a small fish in a big pond and the pressure is on him to deliver the same output to silence his critics. Going up against JDT would not have been his preferred audition stage and would Shahrel sink or swim?
Will the real Akhyar Rashid please stand up?
The transfer of Akhyar from Kedah to JDT became a saga that dominated the headlines for large parts of the pre-season but the bigger worry should have been his slide in performance levels as 2018 went on, to a point where he was not his efficient self that many saw at the start of last year.
A move to a club that demands success will hopefully give Akhyar the second jumpstart in his young career. If JDT cleverly manage his situation to get his to first rediscover his fitness levels before starting to improve him as a player, then they may have signed Malaysia's best player for years to come.
Will Figueroa freshen up the ageing JDT defence?
As mentioned above, the arrival of Mauricio to replace Antonio has already taken five years off the age bill in JDT's defence but there could be more changes that could not only freshen up the side but also give the side a younger look and feel. The time may have come for Luciano Figueroa to prepare the team for the next stage of their evolution.
Azrif Nasrulhaq looks to have overtaken S. Kunanlan towards the end of last season and could start the new season in the same fashion. As for Aidil Zafuan, another one who had a good AFF campaign could be losing his place to Adam Nor Azlin. Should all those changes take place, the average age of JDT's back four could be reduced from 31.3 to 26.8.
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