PREVIEW: Top teams face bottom sides in MSL round 17

Kedah, Melaka, Super League, 11/07/17
Kedah FA
Round 17 of the Super League will be played this Saturday, including the Northern Derby between Pulau Pinang and Kedah.

BY        ZULHILMI ZAINAL       Follow on Twitter

JDT are leading the Malaysia Super League table by a huge margin, but the second place is still up for grabs for teams in between second and sixth places ahead of round 17 this Saturday.

The Southern Tigers will play away to the Titans in Kuala Terengganu. Wait for our preview of the match.

Pulau Pinang vs Kedah

One of the most-anticipated matches to take place in round 17 is surely the Northern Derby between Pulau Pinang and Kedah at the Pulau Pinang State Stadium. Both teams are occuppying diferent ends of the table at the moment, with Kedah in second and Pulau Pinang in last place, but the rivalry and the results of their last matches will definitely make the match a much closer encounter than their standings may suggest.

The Panthers, who are not in the Malaysia Cup, have picked up only one win, one draw and three defeats in their past five matches, but the win happened in their previous match, an away win over fellow strugglers Melaka United last weekend.

The Red Eagles' recent form are definitely better, having won three, drawn one and lost one out of their past five matches, but the draw and the defeat were in their last two matches. Last Tuesday, they fell to a shock 3-1 away defeat to underperforming Kelantan, despite head coach Nidzam Adzha Yusof fielding their key players in the match.

Their recent head-to-head record too suggests a match that will be closely contested. In their previous five encounters, each side have won once, with the remaining three ending in draws.

Saturday's visitors may head into the match wanting to win in order to continue trailing JDT and keep their distance from Pahang in third, but the hosts will fight for survival.

Zainal Abidin Hassan's men are separated from safety by five points and have not long left to catch up, and they will also want to give their home fans the long elusive first home win. The last time they won at home was their last Super League match in 2016, on October 22. Their 1-0 win over the Turtles kept them in the top tier, and doomed the visitors to the Premier League.

Pahang vs Melaka United

Third-placed Pahang will also take on a relegation-threatened side on Saturday. The Tok Gajah will entertain second-last Melaka United's visit, having finally picked up a league win, playing away to PKNS last weekend.

Although the Mousedeers' current form (LWLLW) is nothing to write home about, neither is Pahang's (DDLWL), considering they at one point were leading the standings.

However, both of their most recent encounters ended in Pahang's favour (before this year, they last met competitively in 2009), and it is likely that the hosts will make it three for three this Saturday.

Perak vs Felda United

Fourth-placed Felda United meanwhile will play away to sixth-placed Perak, the second time the two sides will meet this week. Last Tuesday Felda hosted Perak in their Malaysia Cup group match, an encounter that ended in a 1-1 draw. 

Both sides have begun the second stretch of the season splendidly, with Perak recording three wins, one defeat and one draw in their past five matches in all competitions, while Felda have picked up three wins and two draws.

However, looking at their recent records in terms of home and away fixtures, the Fighters appear to have the upper hand. The Bos Gaurus' last five matches at home ended in three draws, one win and one defeat, while the Fighters have won three, drawn one and lost one, with the wins recorded in their last three matches.

Bhaskaran Sathianathan's men too have a good record playing away to Perak. Out of their past five encounters that were hosted by Perak, Felda have won three with the remaining two matches were won by Perak.

Strangely enough, this match will not be played at the Perak Stadium, which recently has been deemed unfit for matches by league organiser FMLLP. The match has been moved to the Stadium Shah Alam instead, announced FMLLP on Friday.

Thiago Junior, Perak, Malaysia Cup, 17072017

Felda United vs Perak last Tuesday. Photo from Perak TBG Facebook

Selangor vs Kelantan

Another side that have gone unbeaten since the end of the mid-season break, fifth-placed Selangor will host eigth-placed Kelantan in Selayang.

Out of the Red Giants' last five matches, they won three and drawn two, while the Red Warriors have won two and lost three of theirs.

Although Selangor's current form is good, Kelantan were recently buoyed by an unlikely result. On Tuesday, they recorded a surprise 3-1 win over Kedah in their Malaysia Cup group match, after previously having lost in three consecutive matches.

Their last five encounters have been won by Selangor thrice with the remaining two ending in draws, but one piece of statistics points to a much-closer encounter between the two clubs this Saturday; the Red Giants have failed to win their last three home matches against the Red Warriors.

Sarawak vs PKNS

The remaining match will pit league strugglers Sarawak in tenth against ninth-placed PKNS FC in Kuching. Both sides have had a horrendous season, with the Crocodiles having picked up only one draw and four defeats in their last five matches, and the Red Ants having recorded one win, one draw and three defeats.

Their last five encounters have been dominated by Saturday's hosts. Sarawak have won four matches, with the remaining encounter ending in a draw.