* Euphoria of reaching the second successive Malaysia Cup final is forgetten by Pahang
* Zainal has a pleasant headache in picking his first team
* Has full squad at his disposal
FOR the second year running Pahang will be involved in the season ending grand finale when the East Coast giants take on Super League champions Johor Darul Takzim in the Malaysia Cup final at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil this Saturday.
The euphoria of reaching their second successive Malaysia Cup final, however, has taken a back seat for now for the defending champions and the Elephants have now switched their focus to the season ending finale against Johor Darul Takzim
The final is dubbed by many as the “Dream Final” between two of the best teams in the Super League this season with each having a title behind them. Pahang won this year’s FA Cup with a 2-1 win over Felda United in the final. JDT – who call themselves as Southern Tigers – won this year’s Super League crown.
For the Malaysia Cup final JDT have been hit by suspensions and will be without skipper Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, who is also the national skipper and the influential flanker Nazrin Nawi. Incidentally, both hail from Negri Sembilan.
Pahang coach Zainal Abidin Hassan, who has a full squad at his disposal, however, is not bothered about JDT’s suspended players simply because the Johor outfit has enough depth on the bench to fall on.
“The suspensions will not effect JDT in any way. Even without Aidil and Nazrin, JDT are a strong side. They have the players to replace them. JDT is the strongest team in the M-League and they can play anyone in a match.
“So I am not too concerned about the suspensions. To me, without doubt, JDT is the best team this season and it is the team to beat,” said Zainal, adding that Pahang football has come a long way to reach the Malaysia Cup final for the second straight year.
“The team has been built over the last two years, thanks to our president (Tengku Muda) who has gone out of the way to get the players to carry Pahang’s challenge in the M-League. It has reaped the dividends…winning the Malaysia Cup last year and the FA Cup this year. And now we are in the Malaysia Cup final again.
“I have a full squad at my disposal and this has given me a (pleasant) headache. The team will be picked on merit and according to my match strategies. The players are aware of this and it is good to see all of them vying for a place in the first team.”
Pahang have a good record against the Southern Tigers. The Elephants have not lost to the Johor outfit in the Super League and the FA Cup this year. In the FA Cup, Pahang knocked out JDT in the semi-finals 2-1 on aggregate. In the league, Pahang won 3-2 in Kuantan and drew 2-2 at Larkin.
Zainal, however, made it clear that come this Saturday “it will be a different ball game” as it is the last match of the season. In the same breath, Zainal said “JDT is still the best team in the M-League” and have the depth to win another title.