The LionsXII know all too well they will be under intense pressure in Terengganu on Saturday night.
With only a 2-1 lead from the first leg of their Malaysian FA Cup semi-final at the Jalan Besar Stadium last week, the Singapore side will have to be at their defensive best as they contend with Terengganu's hotshot Brazilian striker Paulo Rangel, who will return from suspension.
With Malaysian international striker Norshahrul Idlan Taha beginning to sparkle and the creative skill of Gustavo Lopez in midfield, the Turtles will be confident of overcoming the slender deficit, especially in the famous red-hot atmosphere generated by their own fans. In a bid to reach the May 23 final at the Bukit Jalil Stadium, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad has his own plan.
"We have to think positive as well, not just about defending the whole game," said Fandi, before yesterday's training session at the Geylang training field.
"We need to close down Gustavo and Rangel, and then count on our speed in the counter-attack."
Fandi is looking at wingers Gabriel Quak and Nazrul Nazari to provide width and crosses into the box for in-form striker Khairul Nizam. Nazrul, 24, who has started at right-back for most of the season, will take the place of in-form winger Faris Ramli, who is with the Singapore Under-23 team in Japan as they prepare for the 28th South-east Asia Games here next month.
Regular right-back Faritz Hameed is sidelined for Saturday's game with a bruised toe and Raihan Rahman is expected to take his place.
Fandi admitted his side will miss Faris, who scored the team's second goal in the first leg, but is optimistic Quak and Nazrul can do the job.
"We need crosses (into the box) for Nizam, so I might use Gabriel on the left this time," said the 52-year-coach.
"It also depends on whether Raihan is fit; he's still recovering from a knee problem.
"Otherwise, I might even use Firdaus (Kasman) on the right."
The match will be played at the new Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium and it will be Terengganu's first outing there this season.
That bodes well for the LionsXII, said Fandi, who hopes his charges will be motivated to be the first team to win at the new 50,000-capacity arena.
"If I were playing, I'd run myself to the ground in a new stadium; I hope the boys feel the same way," he said.
"I think it benefits us that Terengganu will also be getting used to a different atmosphere.
"These small things will help us."
This article was first published on May 14, 2015.
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