Singapore Football

AFF Suzuki Cup: Singapore v Malaysia - tonight's key battles

GROUP B

SINGAPORE v MALAYSIA

(Tonight, 7.55pm, MediaCorp okto, 
SingTel mio TV Ch 114 & StarHub TV Ch 208)

HARISS HARUN

(SINGAPORE, 47 CAPS, 3 GOALS)

V

GARY ROBBAT


(MALAYSIA, 8 CAPS)

The list of similarities between Hariss and Robbat is lengthy.

Both play in the same midfield role, have the same build, are almost the same age, and compete with the same robustness.

Malaysia were desperately unlucky to lose to Thailand on Wednesday, and many were left wondering what might have been if Robbat had played.

The 22-year-old Harimau Muda star was suspended for the game after being dismissed for collecting two yellow cards during the opener against Myanmar.

Had he played against the Thais, Robbat would likely have been tasked to silence the flamboyant Chanathip Songkrasin, who wreaked havoc on the Malaysian backline all game.

The Lions don't have a player of Chanathip's ilk, and playmaker Shahdan Sulaiman is out with a serious ankle injury. So Robbat's main focus will be to stop Hariss from making surging runs into the box and to prevent him from dictating the game's tempo.

After two goals against Myanmar, Hariss, 24, is a player on fire, desperate to make up for his absence through injury when Singapore lifted the cup two years ago.

Unlike Robbat, Hariss has more in his arsenal - he can operate as a destroyer in the defensive third, and is also a potential match-winner at the other end. 

For this encounter, however, he could operate in central defence in place of the suspended Baihakki Khaizan. 

Robbat will hope to regain his place in the starting 11, as Malaysia coach Dollah Salleh could also choose to continue with Safiq Rahim instead.

If he does play, Robbat will have Shukor Adan to clean up behind him and Amri Yahyah to shoulder the creative responsibility. 

That will leave him with the sole task of dealing with Hariss.

Impact rating: Hariss 8, Robbat 7.5

SAFUWAN BAHARUDIN

(SINGAPORE, 42 CAPS, 2 GOALS)

V

NORSHAHRUL IDLAN TALAHA

(MALAYSIA, 46 CAPS, 5 GOALS)

Singapore should be thankful that Malaysian Super League side Johor Darul Ta'zim elected to go with two foreign strikers last season.

That left Malaysia's best striker, Norshahrul, on the bench for most of the campaign, and the lack of games has turned him into a pale shadow of the dangerman he was two to three years ago.

Nonetheless, the 28-year-old, who will partner either Safee Sali or Amri Yahyah up front, can still win a game on his own. 

Singapore will rely on the ever-reliable Safuwan to stop him.

Almost indomitable in the air, Safuwan has had a difficult year with the LionsXII, and did not look too comfortable against Thailand in the group opener too.

A trademark headed goal could do wonders to his confidence.

Impact rating: Safuwan 7.5, Norshahrul 7

KHAIRUL AMRI

(SINGAPORE, 91 CAPS, 24 GOALS)

V

MUSLIM AHMAD

(MALAYSIA, 23 CAPS)

Amri is the name on every Singapore fan's lips at the moment. 

Hariss might be the best all-round player for the Lions, but the livewire striker, as he demonstrated against Thailand, is undoubtedly Singapore's biggest goal threat.

Amri, 29, is a coach's dream. Armed with pace and technique, he also has the work rate up front to boost his worth. 

Constantly swapping positions with the wingers or with Shahril Ishak in the supporting striker's role, the free-roaming Amri will be a nightmare for Muslim Ahmad to handle.

The 25-year-old Muslim is arguably Malaysia's best defender, but he could be in for a nightmare if Amri is in the mood.

Impact rating: Amri 9, Muslim 7

AFF Suzuki Cup