Kelantan coach Boateng: LionsXII won't upset us
He was impressed with the LionsXII's 5-3 win over PDRM in their Malaysian Super League (MSL) season opener last weekend.
And he also holds LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad in high regard.
But Kelantan coach George Boateng has sent out an ominous warning that the LionsXII will not have it easy when the two teams clash at the Sultan Muhammad IV Stadium tonight.
"I told my players to respect the LionsXII and their coach. They scored five goals against PDRM, and you can't disrespect that. But this is Kota Baru, and we are Kelantan," former Holland international Boateng said yesterday.
"We are not the underdogs - we are the favourites, and we want to be favourites. If the LionsXII can get a point from us, I think that will be worth three points to them."
Kelantan were all-conquering in 2012, winning all three titles in Malaysian football - the MSL, the Malaysia Cup and FA Cup - but could not keep their squad together after their treble feat.
Boateng took over midway through last season, and is confident that he can lead the Red Warriors back to the top.
"When I took over last year, I wasted too much time analysing the team. Now we have to produce results - there is no more hiding," he said.
"Our target this year is simple - we must deliver a trophy."
While the 39-year-old can count on homeground advantage, Boateng is expecting a tough battle.
"I was very impressed with Izzdin Shafiq, Gabriel (Quak) and Faris Ramli in their first game.
"Their passing and movement in transition from defence to attack were amazing to see. It will be a tough match," admitted Boateng.
"We expect the LionsXII to put five, or even 10 men behind the ball and, when they win it, they will move it faster towards goal."
"But, if we have to wait till the 70th minute to score, then the LionsXII should win this game," the Dutchman added, referring to PDRM scoring their first goal only in the 69th minute, after going 5-0 down.
If there was one big positive the former Middlesbrough midfielder can draw from their 2-0 win over ATM last weekend, it was the Red Warriors' grit, as they had to play 40 minutes with just 10 men, due to injuries to several players.
Midfielder Brendan Gan - who is out for the season with a knee ligament injury - and defender Farisham Ismail will play no part tonight, while No. 10 Nor Farhan Muhammad is also a doubt.
"It was really good to see that the players could adapt to the situation (of being one man down), some of them even played out of position. It was even more pleasing to see their fighting spirit and attitude," said Boateng.
"Before the ATM game, we prepared the players with a Plan A, B and even a C, but it wasn't enough for the game. We went all the way to Plan Z!"
"But, if we don't beat the LionsXII, all the good work would be wasted," added Boateng. We are playing to win, whether we meet Johor Darul Ta'zim or Selangor or the LionsXII."
- Pahang 1 Selangor 1
- Sarawak 3 Terengganu 1
- ATM FA 0 Perak 2
- Sime Darby 0 Felda United 3
- PDRM 1 Johor Darul Ta’zim 0