Perak The Bos Gaurus face an uphill battle when the line up opposite Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) in the first leg of the 2017 Malaysia Cup semi-final in Ipoh on Sunday. Injuries have robbed Perak and Mehmet Durakovic the chance to truly test JDT at Perak Stadium.
Hafiz Kamal and Yashir Pinto were known absentees prior to the start of the international break and the situation took a turn for the worse when another import player will not be fit to face JDT. Midfield powerhouse Leandro Dos Santos is still weeks away from being ready and that puts Durakovic in a tough spot in terms of selection.
With neither of Nazrin Nawi and Jasazrin Jamaluddin available for selection, Perak's midfield in particular will have a new look come Sunday. Kenny Pallraj, Nasir Basharuddin, Ahmad Khairil Anuar, Shahrul Saad and Zaquan Adha are likely to be the ones vying for the emptied midfield slots.
"It's a very big moment for the players, the management and Perak. It's a fantastic achievement for us to be here again after 10 years. But we've got to be honest, JDT are a different side. They have the best local and foreign players. We try to play as close to them as possible. But we are at home and we have nothing to lose. In front of a full house, we want to win."
"It's very important to win our home game. It's not easy for us because we are missing so many players but we'll try and then go to JDT to get a result there.
"The players that are coming in, hopefully they will do a good job because I have a lot of players who are missing. Hopefully the young players will step up and show me what they can do, then they can play for me next year. It's a headache but this is football," said Durakovic to the press on Saturday.
Perak had four players away on international duty with Malaysia who suffered a horrendous defeat to Hong Kong in the Asian Cup qualifier. However Durakovic isn't unduly worried about Shahrom Kalam, Nazirul Naim, Amirul Azhan and Hafizul Hakim carrying a hangover from that match.
"Shahrom Kalam is a champion player on and off the pitch. He leads for Malaysia, for Perak and for me. Naim and Hafizul are international players. No, there's no problem for me. The only concern is that they've come back a bit tired. Bad results happen all over the world but I'm not worried about the state of their mind," added Durakovic.
Having been stucked in the group stage since 2012, Durakovic has already led Perak to their best Malaysia Cup achievement in over five years but the Australian is not looking to stop yet. But if he wants to take Perak to their first final since 2007, they can ill-afford to suffer a first leg home defeat on Sunday.