BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
Before the domestic scene takes a break for up to three weeks, there's still one last weekend of action with the FA Cup third round. A place in the quarter finals awaits the victors in this knockout round and plenty will be eyeing the trophy that comes with a ticket to the AFC Cup competition.
Only two all Super League affairs in this round as the lower teams have managed to sprung a suprise or two in the earlier rounds. Pahang welcomes Melaka United in one of the all Super League encounters but the match that is carrying the excitement is the one between Perak and Kedah.
Mehmet Durakovic endured a home defeat in his debut outing in Ipoh when Perak lost to Kelantan and will face a similar, if not greater daunting task against the current Super League leaders. Tan Cheng Hoe's side easily produced the most easy-on-the-eye football in the country right now and with his players in good form, should be the favourites heading into this match.
Durakovic got his defence to improve in that 0-1 away win at Selangor last weekend and that is the same resoluteness that they will have to show against the might of Kedah's attack. With Ken Ilso working his way into a good understanding with his team mates, the waves of threat that can come from the likes of Syazwan Zainon, Baddrol Bakhtiar and Liridon Krasniqi makes Kedah more than just a formidable opponent.
Over in Kuantan, Dollah Salleh will be drumming into his players' ears that there's no shame in the manner of their 3-2 away defeat to Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) in their last match. The Elephants should still be brimming with confidence given how hard they pushed JDT in that match. Syamim Yahya may not have gotten an international call-up but his presence and form will be crucial to win the midfield battle against Eric Williams' team.
It's an all local affair in Kuala Terengganu as T-Team faces up to Terengganu on Saturday. Both teams swapped a fair few players around in recent years which brings a sense a familiarity to the match. With almost all traits and style known, the one left to carry the responsibility of the fans will almost certainly comes down to who desires success more.
Up North in an evening kick-off, Premier League outfit Perlis will have newly-appointed head coach Syamsol Saad in charge as their welcome the visit of Sarawak. It's a baptism of fire kind of first match for Syamsol as David Usop has treated the FA Cup run as a release from their Super League troubles. Mark Hartmann leads the goal-scoring charts in the this competition and if Perlis doesn't devise a plan to stop him, the Filipino could well add to his increasing tally of goals.
Perlis' fellow Premier League strugglers in Sabah will have a much easier tie comparatively as they entertain MOF FC in Likas Stadium. The latter, a FAM Cup side will have to go up against Sabah with not only with lesser talents but will also have to face Sabah's legion of foreign imports. Barring a major upset, Borneo will have at least one representative in the next round of the FA Cup.
Down South in Johor Bahru, JDT will face UITM FC as they look to retain the trophy they won in 2016. With Benjamin Mora having made 11 changes in Tuesday's game against Magwe FC, JDT are likely to revert to their usual and strongest starting XI against UITM. That said, Mora will have to ensure that his player doesn't take things for granted as in Akanni Sunday and Do Dong-hyun, UITM have a pair of players with good goal-scoring records thus far.
Ashley Westwood's trial continues at Paroi when they go up against current Premier League leaders in Negeri Sembilan. The Jangs haven't lost a single match this year and on paper, should at least be the slight favourites for this match despite the difference in leagues. The home side will once again look to the striking power of Bruno Suzuki to get the goals while Westwood is likely to give his players that did so well against PKNS, a further run in the team.
Kicking all these third round action off, will be a Friday night fixture between PKNP FC and Kuantan FA. In the only all Premier League affair in this round, it puts together two teams who have had a decent start to life in the Premier League. PKNP are in the better position and it is down to the good work being done by Abu Bakar Fadzim and Chan Wing Hoong. They have moulded a team that plays in a manner not too dissimilar to Kedah. Having shown Kelantan the exit in the previous round, PKNP will be looking to go further in this competition at the expense of Kuantan.