* Premier League champions Kedah ready for the ‘big boys’ in Group A
* ‘Malaysia Cup is a new ball game’ – Tan Cheng Hoe
Newly crowned Premier League champions Kedah know that the Malaysia Cup is a game of the big names in Malaysian football and to have FA Cup champions – Singapore outfit Lions XII and East Coast giants Terengganu for company in Group A – speaks of the fears for coach Tan Cheng Hoe.
But it stops at that for chief coach Tan Cheng Hoe, a former national assistant coach, and the Red Eagles who are back in the fold to ply their trade in the elite Super League.
It is a new mission for the two-time treble champions in 2007 and 2008 under Azraai Khor Abdullah – an era which Cheng Hoe would rather not dwell – because Kedah were at the top of the game – winning the FA Cup, the League and the Malaysia Cup.
And Cheng Hoe rightly reminds that it was achieved during Azraai’s era. It is a new season for us after spending three seasons in the lower-tier Premier League.
“After winning the Premier League we can win the Malaysia Cup, our chances are just as good as any other teams in the 16-team competition,” said Cheng Hoe.
Kedah are drawn in Group A and in Cheng Hoe’s own words it is “an open group” with all the four teams in the group – Kedah, Terengganu, Lions XII and T-Team – having an even chance to advance to the quarter-finals.
The top two teams in each group will advance to the quarter-finals. Terengganu are former champions while Singapore outfit Lions XII won the FA Cup this year while T-Team narrowly missed promotion after a fourth place finish in the Premier League.
Kedah kick-start their Malaysia Cup preparations on Sunday when they resume training after a short break after winning the Premier League. The Malaysia Cup begins on Sept 11.
“Our first priority is to top the group to make the quarter-finals. You cannot afford to drop points and we will have to take note that every opponent in the group is dangerous…knowing that the Malaysia Cup draws the best out of all contenders.
“You have to be wary of upsets. You have to be wary that after winning the Premier League there will also be the extra motivation for others to beat us,” added Cheng Hoe.
Kedah have two deadly foreign strikers – Brazilian Sandro Da Silva and Nigerian Chidi Edeh – who are celebrities in their own night.
Cheng Hoe, however, is quick to admit that that “there are weaknesses that need to be ironed out” and winning the opening match is always a big boost to the confidence of the players, especially the first timers in the Malaysia Cup.
“The Malaysia Cup is a new ball game but I expect my team to go in fighting. Winning the Malaysia Cup will be perfect way to end the season and look towards ‘new life’ in the Super League.