I think now is the good time for Malaysians to stop trending about ‘kangkung’ on social network and start focusing on the upcoming Malaysian Super League (Liga Super Malaysia) which is about to kick start in two days’ time. Our league may not have the same class or quality like the Barclay Premier League or La Liga but it is still special and remain close to our hearts.
Although the glory days of Mokhtar Dahari and Soh Chin Aun have long gone, the rivalries between teams like Johor, Selangor and Singapore are still able to evoke the memory of the past.
I’m pretty sure Selangor and Johor will be hell bent this season and go all out to re-capture the title form LionsXII. Plus, Kelantan who has been dominating the league in the last few seasons must be working hard to be the number one team in Malaysia again.
The safest bet is on Johor Darul Takzim FC to win the whole lot this season. Powered by world class players like Pablo Aimar and Luciano Figueroa, the team looks the strongest on paper.
Nicknamed ‘Southern Tigers’, Johor Darul Takzim FC are bankrolled by the royal family of Johor, thus the comparison with Manchester City is inevitable. On field however, this team has plenty to prove after failing short last season – finishing 3rd in the Super League and runner-up in the FA Cup. They were also humbled 6-1 by Kelantan in the second-leg of the Malaysia Cup Quarter-Final, which angered many of its fans.
Coach, Fandi Ahmad was sacked mid-way through the season as the club appointed former player, Azmi Mahmud as caretaker manager. This season Johor Darul Takzim FC has installed Spaniard, César Ferrando Jiménez as the new coach. Jiménez is a highly respected coach and his CV includes coaching La Liga teams’ Atlético Madrid and Elche. Apart from Aimar and Figueroa, he will also have many top Super League players such as Baihakki Khaizan, Mohd Amirul Hadi Zainal, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Mohd Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak and Safiq Rahim at his disposal. Anything but the title will be deemed as failure for the Spanish coach.
Malaysian Super League
Of all the teams participating in the Malaysian Super League, I believe champion, LionsXII will pose the biggest treat to JDT. The have a young and decent team but will be difficult to beat at home. The artificial turf at Jalan Besar Stadium has given LionsXII a slight advantage as other teams coming to the stadium find hard to adjust with the quicker turf at the stadium. The loss of captain, Baihakki Khaizan to JDT will slightly weaken the team but overall whatever success they will achieve this season will depend on how many games they can win at Jalan Besar Stadium. It is interesting to note that LionsXII has appointed Fandi Ahmad as their new head coach. I’m sure he has plenty to prove, especially to his former employer at Johor.
32 times Malaysia Cup champion, Selangor has brought in many new players in its bid to relive their past glory. The Red Giants has also appointed former star, Australian, Mehmet Durakovic as the new boss. They have a well-balanced side this season and the players that are brought into the team are really not bad and can help strengthen the team.
I think they made a good investment in Mohd Farizal Marlias and Ahmad Hazwan Bakri. The capture of Indonesian Messi, Andik Vermansyah is another good piece of business done by the Red Giants during the off-season. I haven’t seen their Brazilian imports yet but I understand that they are also good and if Durakovic can find the right formula, then I won’t be surprise if the Super League returns to Selangor.
Another team that is set to be the front-runner is Kelantan. It is quite amazing that despite losing so many good players in the past, they keep coming back with a vengeance. This season will be the same and I think they will finish at least the top four and will be a strong contender in the cup ties because they have an excellent record at home. Last season they managed to turn two goals deficit against JDT with a thumping 6-1 win at their fortress, Sultan Muhammad IV Stadium.
The likes of Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Obinna Nwaneri and Mohd Badhri Mohd Radzi are set to be the backbone of the team yet again with former Johor ‘s coach Steve Darby appointed as the new head coach, taking over form Bojan Hodak.
There are several dark horses that could spring a surprise or two. I see Pahang, Terengganu and ATM as the teams that are not only dangerous but capable of finishing in top four and, who knows, winning the Super League.
Pahang, the Malaysia Cup champion for example, is strong defensively and very hard to beat. The combination of two former Premier League players, Damion Stewart and Zesh Rehman will ensure that The Elephants will concede the least goals this season. Up front they have two proven Super League strikers in Matthias Conti and Dickson Nwakaeme. If the two can forge a good understanding, then they will surely cause havoc to the opponent’s defence. The only setback is the loss of Dollah Salleh as head coach. While his replacement, Ronald Smith is a very experienced coach, I thought Dollah has worked wonder last season – showing good tactical abilities and calmness under pressure.
ATM and Terengganu will pose big threat to teams playing against them but I’m not sure whether they have enough in them to win the title. Selangor PKNS, Perak, Sarawak, Sime Darby and T-Team have all improved their squad, thus will make this season’s Super League more entertaining to watch. The wonderful thing about Malaysian football is that it’s so unpredictable that everything I wrote today can be thrown out of the window as the season moves on. So, expect the unexpected to happen.
Like all other football fans across Malaysia, I just can’t wait for the Super League to get going. Everyone please get ready for another roller-coaster ride in the Malaysia football season. If you have a prediction of the Top Four for this season, feel free to write it down in the commentary box.
Come FAM, let’s get the party started!
– Malaysian Super League 2014: Let’s Get The Party Started!