Despite the LionsXII's lowly eighth-placed finish in last season's Malaysian Super League (MSL), their fans are confident that the Singapore side will bounce back this year.
Fandi Ahmad and his boys will have their work cut out as the Malaysian teams are allowed to field four foreign imports this season - one more than last year.
Despite the disadvantage, die-hard fan Akbar Hashim is backing the 2013 MSL champions to come good.
"The team will rise up to the challenge and fight," said the 53-year-old, who has been organising tours for local fans to away matches in the Malaysian league since 1985.
"The ball is round and anything can happen. I have a strong feeling they will do well in both the league and Malaysia Cup."
Syed Faris, one of the leaders of LionsXII supporters' group, ExcluSinga, is predicting a top-four finish for the team.
The 27-year-old is expecting a big season from new signing Sahil Suhaimi, who was the Courts Young Lions' top scorer with 10 goals in last year's Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League.
"His style of play is very creative and interesting to watch," said Faris.
"Based on his performance with the Courts Young Lions and the national team, I think he will be the one to watch this season."
Fellow ExcluSinga member Norman Abdul Samat, 38, singles out Sahil as the team's trump card this season.
"I believe in Sahil's talent," said Norman. "I think he can provide a different dimension for the team."
For Akbar, he is expecting striker Khairul Amri to be the top performer this season, although he emphasised the importance of teamwork.
"The whole team must work together, because football is a team game and everybody has to work for it," said Akbar, who named defending champions Johor Darul Ta'zim as the title favourites.
Faris plumped for Kelantan, who finished two places above the LionsXII last season.
TOUGH TO BEAT
Said Faris: "Kelantan may not have a lot of big stars, but they're a strong unit and are always tough to beat."
ExcluSinga has promised to turn out in force tonight and rally the fans for the LionsXII's season-opener against PDRM at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.
"The whole of Malaysia will be against the LionsXII," said Faris.
"We want to show and, hopefully, surpass the level of support that Malaysians give their teams."
Akbar, a tour operator for 30 years, has already confirmed details for travel and accommodation for the team's first two away games - against Kelantan and Perak on Feb 14 and 21 respectively.
"As fans, we will make sure the team have our full support, not just on home ground but also at away games," he said.
"I'm sure the fans' support will motivate the players."
As fans, we will make sure the team have our full support, not just on home ground but also at away games.
This article was first published on February 07, 2015.
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