By ERIC SAMUEL
PETALING JAYA: The new M-League season is here. And all eyes will be on megarich Johor Darul Takzim FC (JDT) when the Super League kicks off tonight.
JDT, dubbed the dream team, are the brainchild of Tengku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim and hot favourites to claim top honours this season.
And why shouldn’t they be favourites?
They have a star-studded cast, packed with an awesome attacking line-up comprising Malaysia’s first millionaire striker Mohd Safee Sali and three-time Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the M-League Norshahrul Idlan Talaha. Then, there is Daniel Guiza, a member of the Spanish national team who won Euro 2008.
National skipper and deadball specialist Safiq Rahim and Italy’s Simone Del Nero, a member of the bronze medal-winning squad at the 2004 Olympics are tasked with making the engine room purr to perfection.
Down the flanks they have the speedy duo of Mohd Zaquan Adha and Nurul Azwan Roya.
It’s not just in attack that they are packed with heavy artillery. Their defence too looks rock solid with the acquisition of national players Mohd Aidil Zafuan, Azmi Muslim and Muslim Ahmad. They will surely be able to help Ahmad Tharmini Saiban steady the backline.
In goal, JDT can rely on Mohd Zamir Selamat, a former Harimau Muda custodian.
JDT must have learnt a lesson or two from Armed Forces last season.
Forces, were dubbed the ‘Manchester City of Malaysia’ last season for their big signings and they stormed to the Premier League title to earn promotion to the Super League. They even made the Malaysia Cup final, losing narrowly to treble winners Kelantan.
But JDT, coached by Singapore legend Fandi Ahmad, have certainly outdone them in terms of buying power and will be banking on a sure win over newly-promoted Pahang at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan tonight.
Anything less and it would be a disastrous start for the moneybags.
The new season will be more challenging for the main contenders – Kelantan, Forces and Lions XII, who finished second in the Super League.
It definitely won’t be easy for the Red Warriors, who will have to cope without their two prolific goal-getters – Norshahrul (to JDT) and Mohd Ghaddar Mahmoud (to Felda United FC).
Judging by Saturday’s Charity Clash against Forces, Kelantan are still struggling to fill the vacuum in the strike force and former Golden Boot winner Keita Mandjou of Guinea and Mohd Norfarhan Mohd have a lot of work ahead of them.
Kelantan lost 4-3 on penalties to Forces after both teams were tied 1-1 at the end of regulation time.
The other teams in the 12-team Super League are Selangor, Terengganu, T-Team, PKNS FC, Felda United, Perak and Negri Sembilan.
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