The new Malaysian Super League (MSL) season is upon us and for the preview this year, Goal will be breaking it up to four parts Title Challengers, Mid Table Security, Staying Up and Relegation Battlers. And here's the second part, those who are far away from the threat of relegation and just about struggle to break into the top three.
Predicted finish in 2019: 4th
2018 season: 4th
Head coach: Dollah Salleh
Notable transfers in: Herold Goulon, Dickson Nwakaeme, Saddil Ramdani
Notable transfers out: Patrick Cruz, Austin Amutu, Issey Nakajima-Farran
After finishing runners-up behind JDT in the 2017 season, it was a two-place drop for The Elephants the following season as the lack of investment put paid to their hopes of battling The Southern Tigers for the league title. This season, Pahang are sticking with the squad that they have with the exception of the import players.
Nigerian Nwakaeme returns for his second stint with the club but after more than a year out of the game, it remains to be seen if he can still be the "Iron Man" that Pahang fans remember him as. Tricky winger Ramdani is also new to the team but given his young age, could need time to find his feet in a new country.
In Nor Azam Azih, Dollah has one of the foremost local playmakers and the midfielder will undoubtedly be relied heavily upon to give Pahang a successful season. Captain Matthew Davies will man the right back while Singaporean Safuwan Baharudin was repaid for his stellar work last season with a place in the team.
A lot of expectations will be heaved onto the experienced Dollah but without huge investment into the team, it will be hard to see how Pahang could break into the top three. They will offer the top teams a challenge but maintaining the consistency with an inbalanced squad threatens to undo them.
Predicted finish in 2019: 5th
2018 season: 8th
Head coach: B. Sathianathan
Notable transfers in: Faiz Nasir, Taylor Regan, Michael Nguyen, Antonio German
Notable transfers out: Evan Dimas, Willian Pacheco, Razman Roslan
The new Selangor management under association president and the Raja Muda (Crown Prince) of Selangor, Tengku Amir Shah Sultan Sharafuddin has been wowing their long-suffering supporters all pre-season long, by first making big-name signings to their roster, and then coming out with impressive initiatives to lure the fans back to the stadium.
Now it's up to newly-appointed head coach B. Satiananthan and his new charges to do their part of the transformation process, and ensure that the Red Giants impress on the pitch as well. The new-look squad took awhile to gel during the pre-season while the former Felda United boss honed in on his first eleven.
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While their new import signings have not been spectacular and Wan Zack Haikal Wan Noor is going to be absent for an extended period due to an ACL injury, the fact that Spanish goal machine Rufino Segovia has returned for another season is set to make them one of the more dangerous sides in the league this season. If they can stop letting in goals as freely as they did in the past two seasons, that is.
The Red Giants are expected to show massive improvements this season compared to the last but Sathianathan will need longer time before he take Selangor higher up the table.
Predicted finish in 2019: 6th
2018 season: 7th
Head coach: Zainal Abidin Hassan
Notable transfers in: Safiq Rahim, Liridon Krasniqi, Shukor Adan
Notable transfers out: Khair Jones, Ifedayo Olusegun, Yahor Zubovich
Melaka grabbed almost all of the headlines with their transfer strategy for the new season. Plenty of new players were courted and recruited with former national team captains like Safiq, Shukor, Razman Roslan and Khairul Fahmi now in their ranks.
Boasting a new head coach in Zainal, Melaka also went out of their way to nab Liridon who was reportedly being eye by Pahang as well. A centre midfield partnership with the guile and creativity of Safiq and Liridon is an exciting prospect going forward if Zainal can find the right balance in the team.
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Melaka has played numerous friendly matches in the pre-season as Zainal looks to grow new partnerships and create understanding between a group of players who does not have much experience of playing alongside each other. Could take time for the to gel.
On paper, Melaka do have one of the better squads in the division but what happens on the field is an entirely different matter completely. Will improve from last season, but not much.
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