MSL 2020 season preview: Melaka United at behest of off-the-pitch matters again

Melaka United, Malaysia Cup, 14092019

With the new Malaysia Super League season on the horizon, Goal will be bringing to you the complete guide to all 12 teams in the competition. Going through the changes in the respective squads to see where they could finish come the end of the season. Our next preview is on one of the clubs that ended 2019 in mid-table safety; Melaka United.

How they fared in 2019

Last season the Mousedeer appointed former Malaysia international Zainal Abidin Hassan as their boss, and he brought with him former Selangor players such as Razman Roslan, R. Gopinathan, Raimi Nor and Saiful Ridzuwan. Even veteran defender Shukor Adan signed on for what would be his only season with his home state team so far. But the most sensational signing was surely that of former Malaysia star Safiq Rahim, who joined on loan from JDT.

Despite the big names' arrival, Zainal's charges failed to produce good results consistently, and their matches against more formidable teams frequently ended in predictable defeats. However, to their credit, they rarely failed to deliver in encounters whereby they are the favourites, thanks to the breakout performance of Philippines international Patrick Reichelt, who would end up as their top-scorer in the league. Thanks to his 10 goals, Melaka would collect sufficient points (33) against the minnows to ensure top-tier safety in sixth place, with a record of nine wins, six draws and seven defeats.

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What's new in the squad

Changes at the executive committee level at the end of 2019 subsequently allowed the Mousedeer to be one of the first clubs to announce roster changes in the pre-season. Zainal has been retained, but Shukor and Reichelt left, along with Nazrin Nawi, Gopinathan and Raimi. Local boys Khuzaimi Piee and Nurshamil Ghani too were cut from the roster, while the only foreign signing retained was South Korean defender Jang Suk-won.

But their promptness allowed them to bag a number of familiar names such as goalkeeper Norazlan Razali (Felda United), Syamim Yahya (Terengganu FC), Curran Ferns, Romel Morales (PKNS FC) and Nurridzuan Hassan (Selangor). Among the new foreign signings are Uche Agba (PDRM) and Thai midfielder Narupon Putsorn (Nakhon Ratchasima).

Who are the key players

Safiq is not the same player he was two seasons ago, but he should still be expected to play an important role for the Mousedeer, alongside custodian Khairul Fahmi, who should receive some fight for the starting place from new arrival Norazlan. 

Syamim too should play an important role in the squad, having arrived as one of Terengganu's regular starters last season, while Agba, playing in his second season in Malaysia, should already have enough experience of the Malaysian league, just like Colombian midfielder Morales.

Where will they finish in 2020

2020 is Melaka's second season under Zainal, and they should play as a more cohesive unit this year. They have experience on their roster which needs to be matched by tactical awareness, something that Zainal is not quite known for. But let's face it, off-the-pitch issues have been a major factor in their performance in the past seasons, most tellingly late payment of wages, and that is not likely to change this year. They have too much firepower to be threatened by relegation, so they are likely to end the league campaign in mid-table safety again; in seventh place.

Also read our season previews on JDTKedahSelangor, Pahang and Perak.

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UKM FC dan 'ultras' mereka semasa majlis pelancaran jersi 2020. UKM FC and their so-called ultras during their 2020 jersey launch.

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