Charity Shield Preview: Johor DT vs Pahang FA

After a what felt like a major hiatus, it’s back! The Malaysia Super League will be underway tonight with the Charity Shield clash between Johor DT and Pahang officiating a campaign that will undoubtedly be filled with plenty of drama and exciting moments.

But tonight’s clash certainly fits the bill, if drama and excitement is what you’re looking for. Like it or not, this match involves two of the best teams throughout the entire Malaysian football calendar last year. Johor DT were crowned the Super League champions after a momentous season, while Pahang swooped every other trophy, including the prestigious Malaysia Cup title. So it isn’t surprising when Dickson Nwakaeme labeled this tie as the ‘El Clasico’ of Malaysia.

Photo Credits: Johor DT
Photo Credits: Johor DT

But things have changed since that Malaysia Cup final; perhaps not much, but it certainly has. Both sides continued to lock horns during the off-season due to a transfer saga involving Gary Steven Robbat, but Johor DT have also made several quality additions. Junior Eldstal was signed from Sarawak FA, S. Kunanlan and Farizal Marlias were brought in from Selangor but all their foreign players were retained. Similarly, Pahang also retained all their foreign players and the core of their squad hasn’t been altered, except for the addition of several new players, particularly D. Saarvindran from Harimau Muda.

Bojan Hodak recently revealed that he already has a small idea of how his squad will look like, but we all know that the main policy would inevitably be rotation. With regional commitments coming into play, the Croatian will need to tinker with his squad carefully, though that will probably not apply to the inaugural match of the season. So as for tonight, the squad that eventually represents Johor DT on the pitch, would most likely be their strongest first XI.

bojan hodak
Expect to see Junior Eldstal starting after his impressive performances during pre-season, while Luis Figueroa and Jorge Diaz will continue to lead the line upfront. Marcos Antonio will continue to lead at the heart of their defence while the competition between Chanturu, Kunanlan and Nazrin Nawi for a spot on the flanks, is equally interesting.

As for Pahang, Dickson Nwakaeme is a no brainer. He’s been an absolute menace every time he got on the pitch, particularly against Johor DT. With his impeccable upper-body strength, the Johor DT defenders will not have their work cut-out tonight and they’ll have to be on fiery form to keep this man at bay. But the notable key player for Pahang would have to be R. Gopinathan. For the amount of talent and pace he has, underrated is probably the most fitting word to describe him.

Photo Credit: Pahang FA
Photo Credit: Pahang FA

Bojan though, will certainly recognize the threat in him, which makes the potential tactical battle in this game interesting. Zainal Abidin triumphed the last time both sides face, but take nothing away from Bojan. If he gets his team right, Johor DT are more than capable of running rampant as well. Their signings for this season were premised upon two factors; pace and strength. In fact, those were the two things Pahang have in abundance with Dickson and Damion Stewart providing strength, while Gopi and Alex supply pace on the flanks.

The stakes have been balanced, but who will triumph tonight? Only time will tell.

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