JDT need convincing win against Ceres in AFC Cup zonal semi-finals

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It has not been a smooth ride for 2015 AFC Cup champions Johor Darul Takzim but the Southern Tigers are still the favourites for tonight’s first-leg 2017 AFC Cup Asean Zonal semi-final at the Larkin Stadium in Johor Bahru.
The Southern Tigers need a convincing win at home against Ceres Negros FC of the Philippines for the return-leg which will be played in Bacolod City on May 31.
JDT have an ace in the pack in Gabriel Guerra who is the club’s leading scorer with seven goals. He blasted a hat-trick in JDT’s come-from-behind 3-1 win over Myanmar’s Magwe FC in their final Group F match at the same venue.
It will be a battle between the Argentine and Ceres midfielder and skipper Manuel Ott who also has seven goals to his credit for his team in the AFC Cup.
The Southern Tigers finished second in the group with 13 points and advanced to the knockout stage of the competition as the best placed runners-up in the Asean Zone. Global FC of the Philippines finished on top with 15 points.
In the absence of international Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak because of injury JDT will be led by the towering Marcos Antonio – a pillar of strength in the heart of defence while Safiq Rahim is the ace in the pack in the engine room.
Still, JDT will have to be wary of the threat from Ceres and remember that they had a tough time against Global FC in the group stage – winning with ease at Larkin but fell to a 3-2 defeat away.
New JDT coach Benjamin Mora has not had a smooth run with the team just yet although the Southerns Tigers – three-time winners of the Malaysian Super League – are on top of the league.
The Johor outfit suffered a hiccup in a 1-1 draw against newcomers Melaka United in their last league match after beating the same team 7-0 at Larkin in the first round.
“There will be some reshuffling in positions due to the non-availability of some key players but we have the enough depth on the bench to get a positive result against Ceres. We need a convincing result at home for the return-leg,” said JDT assistant coach Ismail Ibrahim.
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