Pahang coach Zainal Abidin Hassan insisted Pahang would not play a defensive game against star-studded Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) in the FA Cup semifinal first-leg at the Larkin Stadium on Monday.
Maintaining that the Elephants would be more disciplined at the back, the 51-year-old vowed that Pahang would play their usual game – with speedy wingers breaking defence from the flanks and either Dickson Nwakaeme bulldozing past central defenders or Matias Conti’s creativity unlocking opponents’ resolve.
Zainal had pretty much decided who takes the field against JDT but kept his cards close to his chest in hope to spring a surprise or two.
He has a full squad to choose from and faces the dilemma of playing either two imports up front in the likes of Nwakaema and Conti or field Zesh Rehman and Damion Stewart in the heart of the defence. Also, he has to decide between R. Surendran, Azamuddin Akil and Faozi Roslan on the right flank.
“The game plan is as previous games. We will stick to our usual style of play but at the same time strive to ensure we remain>disciplined when defending. Games between us are usually tight and I need a similar performance again.
“I more or less know who to field but will see today’s (Sunday) training session before deciding the best way to line-up against JDT,” said Zainal.
While Zainal has all the players available, his counterpart Bojan Hodak is without suspended holding midfielder Shakir Saari, Safiq Rahim (ankle injury) and S. Subramaniam (flu).
Hodak singled out Nwakaeme as the player to watch but hopes new signing Marcos Santos at centreback would have good debut by keeping the back four intact.
“Pahang have been together for several years now. They have a strong>side with several dangerous players like Azamuddin Akil, R.Gopinathan, R. Surendran and Matias Conti but the one that worries me the most is Nwakaeme.
“He’s a powerful striker who can create chances on his own, he is the most dangerous player with Pahang… thankfully we have Santos to>strengthen our defence and I hope he will have a good game,” said Hodak.