Malaysia Super League Preview: Kelantan vs Pahang

Azraai Khor Abdullah will be looking to get his maiden victory as Kelantan’s head coach when they host Pahang in what could possibly be a massive clash in Kota Bharu.

Despite having a decent start to the season, Kelantan’s bizarre decision to remove George Boateng and appoint Azraai Khor hasn’t exactly paid dividends thus far. The 2-1 defeat to Terengganu was followed by a frustrating away draw in the first leg of their FA Cup quarter-final tie against Sime Darby last Tuesday, and the pressure is already beginning to mount on Azraai.

His reaction after the draw against Sime Darby was to slam the attitude of two foreigners, Emmanuel Kegmone and Isaac Pupo; both of whom did not feature that night. While he has promised to sign replacements before the window closes, the ex-Kedah head coach will still need to get his side back on track this weekend; and they will not have that easy.

In Pahang, they’ve got a side that has been extremely volatile this season. Zainal Abidin’s men are on eight points after the first six matches of this season, but their 2-0 win over Penang last Tuesday would have been a timely boost ahead of this one. Their forwards are struggling to hit the sort of strides they accomplished last season, though this match presents a unique opportunity for them to end that draught.

Understanding that the major battle in this match will take place in the middle of the park, it’s crucial to point out that Kelantan’s midfield has looked out of sorts in their last two games. Norfarhan has been largely ineffective, Piya has struggled to creatively influence in the team, while the defensive midfield hole left by Brendan Gan, hasn’t convincingly been replaced by anyone.

That comes across as a massive advantage for Pahang. If they are able to effectively exploit Kelantan’s conundrums in midfield, they could very much seize victory in this one. But if there’s one thing Zainal Abidin will know, it’s that no one ever underestimates Kelantan when they play in Kota Bharu.

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