Malaysia Cup: Skipper doubtful for struggling LionsXII

Bottom in Group D of the Malaysia Cup with just one point on the board and three games left to play, squeaky bum time has come early for the LionsXII.

And things are not getting any easier for V Sundramoorthy and his charges. They may have to face Perak at the Jalan Besar Stadium tomorrow in a must-win fixture without skipper Shahril Ishak, who missed training session on Thursday night due to a muscle strain.

"Shahril strained his gluteus muscle on his left side. It is a chronic problem that only got worse after the Perak game," said LionsXII physiotherapist Nurhafizah Abu Sujad. "We are hopeful, but he may or may not play on Saturday."

On Thursday night, the 60-minute session at Jalan Besar was a rather subdued one, in the absence of the 29-year-old.

And perhaps in preparation of starting a game without their top scorer, as many as seven players stayed behind and focused on crossing and finishing drills.

"Shahril is a massive presence in the team, especially in a backs-against-thewall situation we're facing now," said Hariss Harun, one of those who put in extra time after Sundram called time on the training session.

"If he really can't play, he'll leave big shoes to fill. Whoever comes in, we have to believe in him and he must believe in himselves." Six-goal (in both the Malaysian Super League and Cup) Shahfiq Ghani is suspended and with physio Nurhafizah declaring that Khairul Nizam is unlikely to be able to last the full 90 minutes, Sundram is left with two forwards - Syafiq Zainal and Fazrul Nawaz - to call upon.

Singapore international Fazrul looks to be leading the race for a starting spot tomorrow, with a midfield reshuffle also on the cards.

Up a notch

While Hariss believes that the incessant running of the experienced former Warriors FC and Geylang International forward will cause problems for the Perak backline, defender Safuwan Baharudin called for all players in the team to take their game up a notch.

He said: "Whoever comes in, we all need to step up now. This is not like the league, there is no more time left for us to catch up." It is such drive that Sundram believes will see his charges rekindle their Malaysia Cup hopes tomorrow.

"We will get the job done," he vowed. "I see hunger and desire in the eyes of every single one of the boys and whatever happens (tomorrow), I can assure you this - they will run themselves ragged to get a result."

The defensively resolute LionsXII have uncharacteristically conceded five goals in three games, four of them coming from set-piece situations - two from long-throws and two from penalties.

And on Thursday, defending drills took centre-stage, as Sundram worked to iron out the kinks.

As the 47-year-old strives to set things straight, he called for a show of unity, saying: "All I hope is that our fans come to the stadium and stand behind us.

"We've always done better with a big crowd at Jalan Besar and we hope they will continue to show us their support when we need them."

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