LionsXII in quarters even if they lose to Terengganu by one goal
Avoid losing by two goals to Terengganu and LionsXII are through to quarter-finals
First, the bad news.
Despite reaching the 10-point mark in the Malaysia Cup group stages with a game to spare, the LionsXII could still be knocked out.
On Tuesday, Terengganu managed to beat Johor Darul Ta'zim II 2-1 in Pasir Gudang, which prevented the LionsXII - who needed JDT II to win or draw - from advancing to the quarter-finals with a game in hand.
"What to do? We always have to do things the hard way. It's good for character-building," LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad told The New Paper yesterday.
But there is still some good news for the LionsXII.
All they need to do is avoid a two-goal defeat by Terengganu in their final Group A match next Wednesday and they qualify for the last eight.
In fact, the LionsXII can even go through if Kedah fail to win at JDT II on the same night.
If they can get at least a point against Terengganu, they will qualify as Group A winners.
If that happens, they will face the Group D runners-up in the two-legged quarter-finals, potentially meeting second-division PKNS FC instead of defending champions Pahang.
They were also given a huge shot in the arm when the Football Association of Malaysia clarified that players would be suspended only if they accumulated three yellow cards in the group stages and two in the knockout rounds.
DUO CAN PLAY
As a result, first-choice centre back Madhu Mohana and key midfielder Izzdin Shafiq, previously thought to be banned as they had copped two bookings, will be eligible for next Wednesday's showdown.
Fandi said: "That's definitely a boost for us to have our key players, one in defence and one in midfield, available for such an important away game where qualification is at stake.
"It will be a tough match because Terengganu have won their last two games and found some momentum and confidence.
"We know the equation, and I'm not expecting any favours from the other teams. We have to settle our own scores."
The 53-year-old also felt that it would be foolish to adopt an ultra-defensive approach even though his team can afford a one-goal defeat.
He added: "We cannot afford to sit back. We have to try to score like how we did when we lost 3-2 there in the Malaysian FA Cup semi-finals, but got the result we needed to go through to the final."
Both teams are familiar foes after having already squared off five times in the Malaysian Super League, FA Cup and now the Malaysia Cup.
Both were victorious twice on their home patches - Terengganu won 3-2 and 4-2 - in addition to a 1-1 draw at Jalan Besar.
"This will be a grudge match for them, not us," said Fandi.
"I'm sure they would love to knock us out of the Malaysia Cup after we did the same to them in the FA Cup.
"But these are the kind of tough matches that would make good lessons and experience for our team.
"They would test our character and make us stronger as individuals and as a team."