* Champions Pahang without Jamaican defender Damion Stewart against Kelantan
* Terengganu without Paulo Rangel against Lions XII
Defending champions Pahang will be without their tough tackling Jamaican defender Damion Stewart while Terengganu are without their Brazilian hitman Paulo Rangel for their FA Cup first-leg semi-finals against Kelantan and Lions XII respectively on Saturday.
Pahang will be at home to the Red Warriors while the Turrtles travel to Singapore to face Lions XII at the Jalan Besar Stadium on synthetic turf.
Terengganu are crippled without Rangel and Canadian striker Issey Nakajima’s back injury during training has left head coach Abdul Rahman Ibrahim a worried man. However, at the same time it could be the turn of national striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha to come out of the nutshell and keep his homestate in contention for a place in the final.
Mat Yo as Norshahrul is popularly known in the football fraternity joined Terengganu during the April transfer window from Armed Forces but has yet to really settle down with his new team.
“Nakajima’s injury is a blow to us. Whether he gets to take the field against the Singapore outfit will be decided later…hours before the match. We have to think that we need him for the return-leg (May 16) in Kuala Terengganu,” said Abdul Rahman on Astro’s Nadi Arena.
Meanwhile, Pahang head coach Zainal Abidin Hassan is unperturbed by Stewart’s suspension but has called on his players to be fully focused on a new look Kelantan since Azraai Khor Abdullah took over as chief coach from Dutchman George Boateng following a string of bad results, both at home and away.
Kelantan arrived without their skipper Badhri Radzi for the Kuantan match but Zainal knows that Kelantan will be a handful since Niegerian Austin Amutu and Brazilian Gilmar Filho joined the Red Warriots during the April transfer window.
Zainal, speaking from Kuantan, said Pahang’s 2-0 win over the Red Warriors in a Super League match in Kota Bahru on April 11 is no yard stick to gauge Pahang’s confidence.
“We are facing Kelantan who have regained their confidence under Azraai…a shrewd tactician,” said Zainal.
Pahang are still in the running in all competitions, including in the AFC Cup competition where the Elephants need only a draw against Global FC in their final Group G match in Manila for a place in the Round of 16.
The FA Cup champions scored a morale boosting 1-0 win over Perak in a mid-week match and the three points sent Pahang to the top of the Super League for the first time.
“Keep up the momentum to face Kelantan in the FA Cup,” said Zainal who will be counting on Nigerian Dickson Nwakaeme and Argentine striker Matias Conti to bring in the goals.