Call it a dream match against the star-studded Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) but Felda United cherish playing the Super League champions in the first-leg Malaysia Cup semi-final match against the Super League outfit at the Selayang Stadium on Monday.
Felda United chief coach Irfan Bakti is, however, quick to point out that the Super League champions “have our respect” as the Southern Tigers are a complete team with enough depth on the bench which is good enough to field another team in the league.
“We are ready to face them (JDT). We will take the field as underdogs as we played in the lower tier Premier League. However, I must say again that the standard of the two leagues (Super and Premier) is about the same. The disparity is not that great,” said Irfan.
Felda have the prized scalp of 32-time Malaysia Cup champions Selangor in their bag – knocking out the Red Giants 7-3 on aggregate in the two-leg quarter-finals – winning 4-0 in the first-leg in Shah Alam followed by a 3-3 draw in the return-leg which was played at the Temerloh Stadium.
“This a dream match. We have reached this far in the Malaysia Cup and we are not about to surrender meekly. They are a near national team and this itself is enough to have Felda motivated. We are fully focused no matter who our opponents are….they have our respect.”
JDT could only manage a scoreless draw in the first-leg quarter-final match against Terengganu but let themselves lose with an attacking display of football to carve out a 3-1 win to advance to the last four on a 3-1 aggregate.
And the manner in which the Southern Tigers destroyed the Turtles with national midfielder Safiq Rahim showing his true with a brace – hitting the first after 15 minutes before wrapping the scoring on 75 minutes after Argentine striker Luciano Foguerao had scored the second and Terengganu pulled one back through Ashaari Shamsuddin.
Many have made JDT the early favourites but at the same time have not ruled out The Fighters from pulling off another giant killing act in the Malaysia after putting an end to Selangor’s “MIssion 33” in the country’s oldest football competition.
The showdown at the Selayang Stadium has drawn the interest of football pundits who are betting on JDT to complete a grand double this season.