Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) are the undisputed kingpins of Malaysian football now but the Southern Tigers have a set modest target for 2018 despite bursting with the best football talent in their squad.
The four-time Malaysians Super League champions since 2014 and winners of the Malaysia Cup last year the Johor outfit have won every title that needs to be won in the country and not forgetting the AFC Cup in 2015.
JDT may not feature in the AFC Champions League after losing to Thai giants Muangthong United 5-2 in a preliminary second round playoff match in Bangkok on Jan 23. But that is already forgotten as JDT embark on a different mission on the local front including the second-tier AFC Cup.
The Southern Tigers kick-start their season in the Charity Shield match against Kedah on Feb 3 with modest targets in the Malaysia League – a top four finish in the 12-team Super League and the quarter-finals in the FA Cup and the Malaysia Cup apart from “doing their best” in the AFC Cup – as posted on the Southern Tigers Facebook.
The match against Kedah comes 10-days after the mauling by Muangthong United. But it stops at that for JDT who want nothing less than a convincing win to lay their hands on the Charity Shield. The full time score will also count towards league points.
Apart from home ground advantage and fan support in the stands JDT will have to be wary of the FA Cup champions. Kedah are helmed by a new coach Ramon Marcote for the 2018 season but have lost their Danish hitman Ken Ilso who has made surprise move Penang. Penang ply their football trade in the lower-tier 100PLUS Premier League. Also gone is Australian defender Zachary Anderson.
Marcote is no newcomer to the M-League as he was in the Kedah FA coaching staff in 2015 when Kedah lost to Selangor 2-0 in the final.
Kedah, however, still have their long-serving Sandro da Silva Mendonca, 34 from Brazil and the much loved Kosovo international Liridon Krasniqi despite being linked to a French club. Two new signings in the Kedah side are Filipino defender Alvaro Silva, 33 and Spanish striker Pablo Pallares. Alvaro played for Ha Noi in the Vietnam League last year.
JDT, on the other hand have brought back their favourite crowd pullers – twin strikers , Argentine sons Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Luciano Figueroa, who Also back is their influential midfielder Hariss Harun, the Singaporean international.
There have been some movements of local players but JDT have add new local talent to their stable. Among the new names are Syameer Kutty Abba, Adam Nor Azlin and S. Kumaahran.BY RIZAL ABDULLAH