SIME DARBY v LIONSXII
(Tonight, 8.30pm, StarHub TV Ch 201, Ch 255 & 76.25MHz)
He joined in his players' warm-up, played cheeky passes in a round of "monkey", laughed and joked with the team.
You wouldn't have been guessed that LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad blew his top in the dressing room less than a week ago, after his misfiring team failed to beat T-Team at home last Saturday and had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
You also couldn't tell that he faces a selection headache with the injuries and suspension his team have got ahead of tonight's Malaysian Super League (MSL) match against Sime Darby FC at the Selayang Stadium.
The LionsXII's first-choice central-midfield pairing of Zulfahmi Arifin and Isa Halim are ruled out by suspension and a heel injury respectively, while Hafiz Abu Sujad (hamstring) and Sufian Anuar (groin) failed to pass a late fitness test and remained in Singapore.
Of the 19 who travelled, no less than five players - Madhu Mohana, Gabriel Quak (both knee), Afiq Yunos (toe), Faris Ramli (calf) and Nazrul Ahmad Nazari (hamstring) - are carrying injuries.
Yet, Fandi remained defiant.
"Of course it's a concern. But we are good at making the best of what we have," said the 51-year-old.
"In central midfield, we have Raihan (Rahman) and Firdaus (Kasman) who have done well in recent games, and Aqhari (Abdullah) could have some part to play against Sime Darby, too.
"Sime Darby are a hard-running and hardworking team, but I trust my players to be eager and grab any opportunity they have to impress.
"After the draw with T-Team, we were all frustrated and the boys know what they were guilty of.
"We need to win this match now if we are to stay within touching distance of the top teams and, to win, we must score.
"We are approaching the second half of the season, and we have to be more organised and consistent."
Defending MSL champions LionsXII are currently fifth with 15 points, five points behind leaders Terengganu, but could be overtaken by ninth-placed Sime Darby FC, who have 13 points.
LionsXII striker Khairul Amri, who has not scored in four matches since the 2-1 home defeat by Kelantan last month, is confident of a good result tonight.
The 28-year-old has good reason to feel optimistic at Selayang, a place he considers one of his favourite hunting grounds, as he was the one who led the 2-1 comeback victory over ATM FA on this same pitch in February.
"You can tell by the slim winning margins that there are no easy games in the MSL," he said.
"We will miss the injured and suspended players, but it's a good opportunity for the other players to step up.
"If we can keep creating chances that we have, we will always have a chance of scoring.
"We just have to stay positive. As for me, I can't wait to score, and I hope I will start scoring again and get at least one in this match."
PROBABLE LIONSXII LINE-UP: Izwan Mahbud, Faritz Abdul Hameed, Afiq Yunos, Safuwan Baharudin, Shakir Hamzah, Nazrul Ahmad Nazari, Raihan Rahman, Firdaus Kasman, Faris Ramli, Shahfiq Ghani, Khairul Amri
LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS l PKNS 1 Johor DT 1 l Sarawak 1 Terengganu 3 TONIGHT'S OTHER FIXTURES l Kelantan v ATM l Perak v Selangor l T-Team v Pahang
This article was published on April 5 in The New Paper.
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