The LIONSXII theme song

LionsXII prepared to go on the offensive

LionsXII prepared to go on the offensive

Written By: Kenneth Ho

LionsXII head coach Fandi Ahmad cuts a confident figure as his side prepares to take on Pahang FA in the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals.

The tie will be a two-legged affair, with the LionsXII travelling to Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan before playing the return leg on 28 November at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

While Pahang finished in second place in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) earlier this season – as compared to the LionsXII’s seventh spot – Fandi has told his side not to fear the Elephants.

Fandi’s confidence stems from the knowledge of facing Pahang five times last year, and twice this year. In their last match at the Jalan Besar Stadium, the LionsXII walked away with a 4-2 win.

With the Elephants featuring largely the same players, the former Singapore international believes his side should know how to cope with them.

“We know what their strengths and weaknesses are, so we have a good opportunity because I don’t think Pahang want to play us,” Fandi affirmed.

“To minimise their strength, we just need to stop their midfield from pumping the long balls up and stop their direct play.”

Once again, Pahang’s threat will come from the strike force pairing of the MSL’s second-highest top scorer with 12 goals, Matias Conti, and Dickson Nwakaeme (nine goals).

However, the LionsXII do not intend to sit back and defend against the Elephants, with Fandi planning to deploy two attacking forwards.

This is especially important, he added, with the away goals rule in play from the knockout stages onwards.

“We have got to go there with the mentality we had in Terengganu (the LionsXII beat them 2-1). We have to have a positive mindset that we have to score goals,” Fandi said.

“We cannot sit back and I believe we will start with two attackers; we can’t play defensively.”

In terms of personnel, Khairul Amri will continue to miss out as he recovers from his hamstring injury, while Izzdin Shafiq is suspended.

Fandi has been mulling over his options but he hinted that he will pick his squad with match fitness and experience in mind.

“We will use what we have and try to get in a bit of experience,” Fandi shared.

“We need to adjust because match fitness is a key in this high intensity game.”

“Maybe we could bring Zulfahmi Arifin up (from defence to midfield) or Firdaus Kasman could come in.”

As far as midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman is concerned, it does not matter who his head coach picks as he believes every player can and must contribute to the team’s cause when called upon.

“I think that has to happen from the start of the season. Everyone has to chip in with the goals or assists, so it doesn’t change anything,” Shahdan said.

“It’s up to substitutes to step up and show the coaches what we can do and fight for our place in the first eleven.”