Sahil to replace Amri as Fandi reshuffles team
Sahil set to lead the line in must-win game for LionsXII
LIONSXII v JOHOR DARUL TA'ZIM II
(Today, 7.30pm, StarHub TV Ch 112/205)
The phrase came up five times in the space of five minutes - "no choice" - but despite that, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad retains the belief that despite missing the services of hamstrung forward Khairul Amri, his charges will be able to pull off a win against Johor Darul Ta'zim II (JDT II) tonight in Group A of the Malaysia Cup at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Amri pulled up with a hamstring injury just before half-time in Singapore's 2-1 win over Cambodia on Tuesday and has been ruled out for up to four weeks, and the LionsXII seem short of options up front.
"We have no option, Amri is out, Khairul Nizam took a knock to his knee in training (on Thursday), and we don't have many options left, only Sahil Suhaimi and Sufian Anuar," said Fandi, who is acutely aware of Sahil's penchant for dropping deep instead of playing on the shoulder of the last defender.
"Sahil is a second striker, but we have to make him understand what we want from him. He will have to lead the line and he can't come back to pick up the ball from midfield as he likes to do."
Sahil was deployed on the right side of an attacking trio behind Amri for Bernd Stange's national team against Cambodia.
While not his best position, the 23-year-old did manage a few telling crosses into the box.
"I am worried, we've had to do a bit of shuffling, but hopefully Sahil will do okay for us," added Fandi, who did enjoy some good news yesterday.
Flu-stricken Safuwan Baharudin is set to play just behind Sahil, with Hafiz Abu Sujad also passed fit and will operate as a left-sided midfield this time, with Shakir Hamzah at left-back, and midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin dropping back into central defence.
Fandi has had to move his players around, but the goal remains the same - to secure a win.
"It is important that we win this game, the group is very open and we need to get to 10 points, even though that won't guarantee that we will surely qualify," said the former Singapore captain.
"This is a must-win game, it is like a final for us."
The LionsXII are second in the group, level on seven points with leaders Kedah, with JDT II third on four points, with a game in hand.
Terengganu, the seeded team in the group, only have one point, but they have a game in hand.
Singapore's veteran internationals Baihakki Khaizan and Shahril Ishak both star for JDT II and many in the LionsXII set up have for a long time looked upon the duo as leaders to follow and listen to in the national team.
"We have played JDT II a couple of times this season, we know their strengths and weaknesses, but we are aware that Baihakki and Shahril know us," said Fandi.
"We can't let Shahril turn and face the goal, he's always a danger - he has an eye for that killer pass - we can't let him turn, and we must dominate the midfield," added the coach, who has told his boys to grab the early initiative.
"The early goal is very important for us to wrap up the game. There are no two ways about it, we have to win."
Probable LionsXII line-up:
Izwan Mahbud, Faritz Hameed, Madhu Mohana, Zulfahmi Arifin, Shakir Hamzah, Izzdin Shafiq, Shahdan Sulaiman, Faris Ramli, Safuwan Baharudin, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Sahil Suhaimi.