Fandi sweats on Amri

LionsXII striker Khairul Amri reacts after missing a sitter against Pahang at a football match during the Malaysian Super League (MSL), which doubled as a Charity Shield match at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Pahang, Malaysia, on 17 January 2014.

He calls it a must-win match, but LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad may have to find a way past Malaysian Premier League side DRB-Hicom FC in Tuesday's FA Cup clash without his top striker Khairul Amri.

The 28-year-old Singapore forward suffered a groin strain in the 1-0 defeat away to Pahang in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) on

Friday night and had to be replaced by Nazrul Ahmad Nazari in the 63rd minute.

Fandi has to decide whether to risk Amri, who has 83 caps and 18 goals for Singapore, for the FA Cup encounter at the Bishan Stadium on Tuesday.

With Khairul Nizam and Shafiq Ghani out injured, his only other recognised striker is Sufian Anuar.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, the 51-year-old said: "He will go for a check-up and a fitness test, but we have to be careful with Amri because there are still many games left in the season and we want him fit.

GREAT INTERPLAY

"Amri showed great interplay with the midfield against Pahang, dropping deep to link up with Zulfahmi (Arifin) and Hafiz (Abu Sujad).

"But Sufian also did well to hold up play and he will be key on Tuesday.

"If Amri is unavailable, then I will have to think about how to use more midfielders to complement Sufian in attack."

Amri, who scored two goals in three pre-season friendlies, combined well with Sufian in a bold 4-3-3 formation against Pahang, creating few chances.

But the MSL champions were let down by poor finishing.

With the MSL fixtures throwing up a tough start for the LionsXII - traditional giants and favourites Selangor and Johor Darul Ta'zim are up next in the league - the FA Cup knockout clash offers some respite and Fandi wants a good win to inject confidence into his side.

"It is important to win and get through to the next round. It is a must-win, there's no doubt," said Fandi.

"But we also need to play well. Against Pahang, I felt we got into good positions on many occasions, but the penetrative pass and the precise finish were missing.

"We will work on that.

"Our pre-season was quite short and we are still trying to find momentum and the right players to put in the right formation."

Traditionally, the LionsXII have started the season slowly as far as goals go.

In each of their previous two seasons, they scored just four goals in their first five games, but recovered to become the third-highest scorers in the competition.

Skipper Isa Halim hopes the goals will start to flow against Malaysian second-tier outfit DRB-Hicom.

Said the 27-year-old: "Every Malaysian team, regardless of which division they play in and even in friendlies, will want to beat us.

"But we have a good team spirit and I thought we played well against Pahang in their own den in Kuantan.

"We will be playing at home now. If we continue to create the chances and backed up by the home support, I'm confident the goals will come."

ON UNFAMILIAR GROUD

They are protecting an unbeaten home record that stands at 20 games.

But the LionsXII will be playing their first home fixture of the 2014 season away from their Jalan Besar fortress.

The Malaysian Super League champions will entertain DRB-Hicom in an FA Cup clash at Bishan Stadium on Tuesday as the Jalan Besar Stadium is undergoing returfing work.

It has hardly been an ideal preparation for Fandi Ahmad's side, who have had to train at various locations during their build-up, including ITE College Central at Ang Mo Kio, Yishun Stadium and the Geylang Lorong 12 field.

They will train at Bishan for the first time on Monday, before the first round FA Cup match.

The artificial turf at Jalan Besar has worked to the advantage of the LionsXII over the last two seasons, but Bishan is a grass pitch.

Said Fandi: "No choice, we'll just have to adapt. It's not about the unbeaten home record. We just want to win."

Captain Isa Halim, who played at Bishan when he was with S-League giants Home United from 2009 to 2011, hopes that the pitch will hold up.

"I'm not so sure of the conditions now because it is still pre-season for the S-League. But Bishan Stadium used to have one of the best pitches then," said the 27-year-old.

"I hope there will not be too much sand used to maintain the field, otherwise it will be tough for us on a heavy pitch, especially as we are playing back-to-back matches.

"We also hope the fans will continue to turn up and support us because they were a very big part of our success last season and their presence definitely lifts our performance."


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