It is match of “extreme ends” when leaders Pahang and bottom placed Sime Darby square up at the Selayang Stadium when the Super League resumes for the third time on Saturday after a three-week break for Hari Raya.
Sime Darby, however, had made an earlier return to the league last week to face Kelantan to complete their postponed fixture as the Kelantan state government did not allow the Sultan Mohd IV Stadium to be refused to be used during the fasting month.
The outcome of the match was a 2-2 draw which left the plantation giant without a win after 15 matches but Sime Darby’s performance caught the eye of Pahang chief coach Zainal Abidin Hassan.
Zainal sees Sime Darby as “a threat” to the Elephants and spoil his team’s title hopes with defending champions Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) lurking in second place. Pahang are on top with 33 points while JDT are second on 31 and Perak third (27) after 15 matches.
“With seven matches to go we have a task against Sime Darby. Our opponents are desperate but they will be out to get their first win in the league this season,” said Zainal, who will have to make do without two of his players – Azidan Sarudin and Nor Azam who are kayoed with knee injuries.
“I fear playing against such a team. Sime Darby played very well against Kelantan and that was an away match. Even if beat them in the first round we just cannot count ourselves as favourite to collect full points.
Zainal is banking on his first choice goalkeeper Khairul Azhan Khalid, who kept goal for Malaysia Selection and played an inspiring role in the 1-1 draw against English football giants Liverpool in a friendly match at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on July 24.
“Khairul is in form and I hope he can ride on the momentum after the inspiring role he played for the Malaysian Selection. I believe it has boosted his confidence. This is a crucial match for us and we cannot afford to drop points although we are playing a team without a win in the league so far.”
JDT will play Sarawak who are also in relegation zone with 13 points and lying in 10th place, while Perak travel to play Kelantan. The Red Warriors will be playing their third straight match at home and beat relegation threatened Armed Forces 5-1 last Tuesday for their biggest win of the season.
Sarawak will need to win against JDT to enhance their hopes of staying in the Super League. For the record Sarawak coach Robert Alberts quit the team after the 3-1 defeat to Pahang in Kuantan in their last match.