Morale in the LionsXII camp is high but energy levels are dropping.
So, even as coach Fandi Ahmad declared his intention to take all three points in tonight's Malaysian Super League (MSL) clash with second-from-bottom ATM FA at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium in Paroi, he is also aware of the need to freshen his team up.
On Friday, they will have another tough away MSL match, against third-placed PDRM FA at the Shah Alam Stadium. It was just three days ago that the LionsXII beat ATM 3-1 at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
So, as fatigue hits some players, Fandi told The New Paper yesterday: "Ideally, we want full points from both games, but we know away games can be very difficult.
"We want to collect full points from this game against ATM, especially, because I'm expecting an even tougher game on Friday."
Fandi said he will make "at least" two changes to the 11 who started on Saturday, hinting he could leave stars Khairul Amri and Faris Ramli on the bench.
Striker Amri was one of nine LionsXII players who played their hearts out in a goalless World Cup qualifier against Japan at the Saitama Stadium in Tokyo last Tuesday, while winger Faris, along with defender Shakir Hamzah and striker Sahil Suhaimi, featured in the Singapore Under-23 team's recent ill-fated SEA Games campaign.
Fandi warned his players to be wary of an ATM backlash.
"They are slipping down the table so they will definitely give us a tough fight, and they won't want to lose two in a row.
"We also have to be careful because they will have their two foreigners (defender Obinna Nwaneri and striker Abdelafees Salam) back from suspension."
If other results go their way tonight, a win in Paroi could send the LionsXII, MSL champions in 2013, up to third. But Fandi insists he and his players are not bothered about looking at the table.
With exactly half the season gone, top on his agenda is securing a top-10 finish to qualify for the Malaysia Cup tournament, something which the team only did on the last day of last season's MSL.
He added he was pleased to have U-23 players Shahfiq Ghani, Shakir, Safirul Sulaiman and Al-Qaasimy Rahman join from the Courts Young Lions in the mid-season transfer window.
"We're not even looking at the table right now," said Fandi.
"We just want to pick up points and qualify for the Malaysia Cup as early as we can, not struggle like last season.
"I'm very happy with the options we have in this second half of the season, and I think we can rotate the players around a bit."
This article was first published on June 23, 2015.
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