Without Amri, LionsXII look to Nizam and Safuwan
Scoring burden falls on Nizam and Safuwan in absence of injured Amri
LIONSXII v PAHANG
(Tonight, 7.30pm, StarHub TV Ch 112/205 & 76.25MHz)
Head down, he sat on the sidelines with an ice-pack strapped to his right calf.
Khairul Amri cut a dejected figure at the Geylang Lorong 12 field yesterday, and understandably so.
He picked up a knock in the LionsXII's 2-1 win over Felda United last Sunday and has since been in a race against time to get back on the pitch, as his teammates face a packed August schedule in the Malaysian Super League (MSL).
The 30-year-old missed Wednesday's 4-2 away defeat by Terengganu and, yesterday, it was clear that he wouldn't feature against MSL leaders Pahang at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.
Amri will now aim to get fit for Wednesday's away fixture to Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT), with matches against Selangor, Sarawak, and Sime Darby to come later this month.
To fill the gap left by Amri, coach Fandi Ahmad looks set to deploy Khairul Nizam, with Safuwan Baharudin working just behind the LionsXII No. 10 against Zainal Abidin's charges tonight.
"It's disappointing to be injured at a crucial time like this, but what can I do?" lamented a downcast Amri.
"It hurts when I walk. I can't even run at all."
Lying seventh in the 12-team MSL standings, the LionsXII are chasing fourth spot to ensure that they will be seeded in the post-season Malaysia Cup.
They have 26 points, and are just one point away from third-placed Perak. Leaders Pahang are on 39 points, two ahead of second-placed JDT.
Without Amri, the LionsXII face an uphill task against an in-form Pahang side that have gone 12 games without defeat - a run that started coincidentally with a 3-2 win over Fandi's men in April.
"Amri, for me, is the best striker in Singapore, and his absence will definitely affect us. Whoever takes his place will have to deal with a heavy burden," said Fandi, after putting his charges through a light hour-long session yesterday.
"Nizam can do a job for us, but he isn't the best at holding up the ball, and that will be important for us (tonight).
"Pahang will be looking for that quick counter-attack, and we can't be losing the ball easily in their half."
Nizam is well aware of the big boots he has to fill in Amri's absence, but he is taking it in his stride.
"Of course there's pressure. It's not easy to replace Amri - he is our dangerman and he can score goals," said Nizam of his half-brother.
"I've missed a lot of chances recently, but I know I have to focus and play to instructions.
"I need to score goals, both for myself and for the team, if we are to get the win that we want."
Fandi is hoping that Safuwan, who has proven to be equally adept at playing anywhere as he is in his usual central defensive position, can help out with the goals.
"Safuwan's been trying very hard and playing well recently, and he will be important to the team," said Fandi, who will also welcome Faris Ramli back into the team.
"We need a win and, for that to happen, we need goals and every one must show up."
- Probable LionsXII starting line-up: Izwan Mahbud, Faritz Hameed, Madhu Mohana, Shakir Hamzah, Hafiz Sujad, Izzdin Shafiq, Zulfahmi Arifin, Nazrul Nazari, Safuwan Baharudin, Faris Ramli, Khairul Nizam.