The 2017 FA Cup will come to a conclusion this weekend as reigning Malaysia Cup winners Kedah take on a resilient Pahang side in the final at the Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday.
The tables have turned this season as Kedah opened the season with a penalty shoot-out victory over Johor Darul Ta’azim (JDT) to clinch the Charity Shield, which was won by The Southern Tigers last season. Once again, The Red Hawks have the chance to clinch a second trophy (currently held by JDT) and assert their dominance to the rest of the country.
Tan Cheng Hoe, who has been brilliant for Kedah since being appointed in 2014, has left the club to take up the mantle of assistant coach to Nelo Vingada in the Harimau Malaya squad. Despite the lack of morale and poor run of results over the past month, caretaker coach Nidzam Adzha Yusoff has reassured the Kedah fans of his commitment to the team.
On the other hand, there is the Pahang side who failed to make an impact last season as they were struggling to maintain their place in the Malaysia Super League (MSL), and currently, they are sitting in second place in the league, behind leaders Johor Darul Takzim.
Dollah Salleh is no stranger to the FA Cup as he won it in 2005 with Selangor. The ex-national team manager also won the Malaysia Cup with The Elephants four years ago.
Who’s in, who’s out?
Kedah and Pahang are expected to field their strongest line-ups and the likes of Liridon Krasniqi, Sandro, Matheus Alves, Kiko Insa, Baddrol Bakhtiar, Matthew Davies and Ken Ilso will all take a part in the massive match at the Shah Alam Stadium this Saturday.
Dollah Salleh is expected to start new signing Yamil Romero in place of Bright Yike, who had seen his contract terminated by the Pahang Football Association earlier this week. Brazilian forward Matheus Alves is currently the second highest goalscorer in the league with 12 goals to his name and he will be looking to link up with the new signing and Mohamadou Sumareh.
The Red Hawks are favourites going into the game because of their solid defensive record in the league this season (only one loss). Liridon Krasniqi, Ken Ilso and Baddrol Bakhtiar have been the backbone of Kedah’s team, whereas New Zealand defender Zac Anderson will miss out on the final after suffering an injury which ruled him out of the previous few games.
Look out for….
Liridon Krasniqi – Kedah
The Kosovan midfielder has been instrumental for Kedah this season with his ability to control the tempo of the game and dictate play in the middle of the park. The ex-Ankaraspor play is easily one of the best players in Malaysian football and he will be able to cause some damage to Pahang with his incredible composure on the ball and impressive passing skills.
Matheus Alves – Pahang
The Brazilian forward has been in fine form this season and his attacking threats will be the difference between his team clinching the illustrious trophy at the end of the fixture. The 23 year-old will be supported by the likes of M. Sumareh and new signing Yamil Romero, which may potentially overpower the Kedahan defenders in terms of physique and strength.
Probable Starting XI
Kedah: Ifwat Akmal – Rizal Ghazali – Khairul Helmi – Syawal Nordin – Fitri Omar – Liridon Krasniqi – Baddrol Bakhtiar – Sandro – Ken Ilso – Syafiq Ahmad – Farhan Roslan
Pahang: Wan Azraie – Matthew Davies – Jae-Won Heo – Afif – Faisal Rosli – Wan Naharulnizam – Ahmad Syamim – Nor Azam – Matheus Alves – M. Sumareh – Yamil Romero
Kedah to win 2-1 in normal time.