Written by: Shawn Lim
LionsXII head coach Fandi Ahmad is confident that his team will be able to cope without Khairul Amri when they take on Johor Darul Ta’zim II (JDT II) in their 2015 Malaysia Cup Group A clash on Saturday night.
While Fandi admits that losing Amri, who injured himself on international duty for Singapore, is a big loss, he believes that he has capable replacements for the veteran striker.
“We played three times with different formations in 10 minutes today. We wanted to see the best formation and the best partnership upfront,” Fandi told the official LionsXII website after training on Thursday night.
“We rotated Safuwan (Baharudin) with Sufian (Anuar), Sahil (Suhaimi) and (Khairul) Nizam. We will decide later on who will start.
“Any player that replaces Amri brings different types of play to the team. What we need is a player who can hold up play for us because we don’t want to lose the ball in the final third.
“We also want to keep their defenders busy, so we are also thinking who is the best option for that.
“Of course, Amri is a very important factor us, but we have to decide again which of these three players will partner Safuwan.”
Even though the LionsXII have not kept a clean sheet since starting their Malaysia Cup campaign this year after conceding six goals, two more than Terengganu FA who sits at the bottom of Group A, Fandi is not losing sleep anytime soon.
“As long as we score and we win, it’s ok. Anytime, anything can happen. We also rotated a little bit in defence during training today, because Hafiz (Sujad) is carrying a minor injury,” said the 53-year-old.
“He looks okay today, but we will also decide later because we don’t want to aggravate the injury even though he says he is fine.
“We played Zulfahmi (Arifin) in the centre of defence as well in training today because Shakir (Hamzah) looked good on the left while on international duty for Singapore against Cambodia.
Despite having already beaten JDT II in the reverse fixture, Fandi is adamant that the LionsXII will not take the upcoming tie lightly.
“I can see that they are very inspired after they beat Kedah away a few weeks ago so that makes us think twice about playing attacking football against them,” Fandi noted.
“Of course, playing at home we want to attack and score goals, but missing Amri is another story.
“So we have to be very cautious going into the game and we need to have a good game plan because we can feel that they are very motivated for this game because a win for them is a big boost.
“It’s a do-or-die for us to win because we have to play Terengganu away, so this game will be crucial for us.”
The LionsXII will qualify for the next stage of the competition if they manage to get all three points against JDT II and defender Faritz Hameed feels that his teammates understand the significance of getting a win.
“Everybody knows that we have to win this game. If we don’t win this game or draw it, it will be difficult for us,” said the right-back.
“All the players hope that we can finish the job this Saturday and qualify for the next round. Hopefully we can turn up, play our game and win.
“If we don’t get goals before the second-half, the pressure will come in, but we have to find a way.
“Football is about playing under pressure and all the boys have proven that they are capable of handling pressure.”