BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
The Malaysia Super League goes into Round 10 and with just two matches to go before the cut-off to the qualification for the Malaysia Cup, teams do battle across the country hoping to avoid the embarassment of being the only Super League side to miss the boat to the oldest cup competition in Malaysia.
After their midweek win over Kelantan, Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) will be looking to strengthen their lead at the top of the standings over rivals Pahang and Kedah. Goal runs through the fixture of all six matches to be played on Saturday.
Johor Darul Ta'zim v PKNS FC
Fresh from their comeback win over the Red Warriors, the Southern Tigers to maintain or better the current one point lead over second placed Pahang. Having taken pole position for the first time this season, the reigning Super League champions will not want to relinquish the position just a few days after climbing to the top.
PKNS are winless in six successive league matches but should go into the relatively confident mood after holding out to a creditable 1-1 draw away against Kedah at the Darul Aman Stadium. The Red Ants are in eight spot in the table and have conceded the third highest goals in the league thus far.
With the way they are leaking goals and the likes of Gabriel Guerra and Safiq Rahim in red hot form, it's going to be a testing 90 minutes for the PKNS defence. This match will see the return of Safee Sali to Tan Sri Hj Hassan Yunos Stadium, having spent four seasons with JDT previously. He will be amongst familiar faces when he lines up against his former team on Saturday.
Pahang v Selangor
Dollah Salleh's team are another one that only recently achieved a win in Kota Bahru following their 2-1 win there last weekend. Pahang have won all of their league games played at Darul Makmur Stadium thus far and should be the favourites to continue that record against Selangor.
Meanwhile, P. Maniam will be taking his Red Giants side into the match off the back of a 2-1 win themselves, against Sarawak. The head coach would have be relieved to see main striker, Francis Forkey Doe notching a goal in that game having gone through a barren period recently.
Former home fan favourite, Razman Roslan will need to be on his best to ensure that current Pahang top scorer, Matheus Alves will not get maintain his two-games scoring streak. The Elephants should be able to parade their usual starting XI with Syamim Yahya and Nor Azim Azih continuing their wonderful partnership in central midfield.
Sarawak v Perak
Sarawak are sitting precariously just two points ahead of Penang in the final Malaysia Cup qualification spot. David Usop is still searching for his first league home win of the season having lost three of their previous matches played at Stade Stadium in Kuching.
Things are not rosy in Perak either as Mehmet Durakovic had to watch his side let slide a first half dominance only to be found needing a late penalty to secure a 2-2 draw against T-Team last Saturday. The Bos Gaurus have only kept one clean sheet in their last six matches played and will need to arrest their slide if they still harbour any hope of putting up a title challenge.
With only eight goals scored thus far, Sarawak are the second lowest scorers in the league. A match-up between two teams in dire form - perhaps a perfect opponent for either side to use to their advantage and improve their strickened confidence levels.
Melaka United v Felda United
An under-pressure Eric Williams welcomes Felda United to Hang Jebat Stadium on the back of some horrible defensive calamities in recent matches. They have scored none but shipped in 13 goals in the last three matches and the defence will need improvement if Williams wants to stop their continual slide down the league table.
The improvement shown by Felda since the appointment of B. Sathianathan was put to a halt last weekend in their defeat to Penang. The experienced head coach will know better than to allow his players' mind to wander off to the all-important AFC Cup match next week and will no doubt work to ensure that they keep their focus first against Melaka United.
In the battle of the "Uniteds", it is a fixture between a home team who haven't won in their own stadium in the league against an opponent that haven't won away from home in the league all season. One of them, will have to give way come Saturday.
T-Team FC v Kedah
Rahmad Darmawan's team goes into this match without a win in regular 90 minutes in seven matches in all competitions. However, if the Titans do not let their hearts rule over their head, should gain plenty of confidence in the manner they came back in the second half against Perak in their last league match.
Kedah's title hopes took a big hit when they only drew against PKNS last weekend. The continuing saga of Tan Cheng Hoe would not have helped their cause. The uncertainty surrounding his stay, or rather the time left on his stay with the Red Eagles, is bound to have a knock-on effect on the players' morale.
The centre back pairing of Abdoulaye Maiga and Hasbullah Awang is likely to work overtime in the face of arguably the most potent attacking side in the league this season. With goal-threats being shared around Ken Ilso, Sandro da Silva and Baddrol Bakhtiar - Kedah should still go into the match as clear favourites to pick up another win on the road.
Penang v Kelantan
Zainal Abidin Hassan's reign in Penang couldn't have gotten off to a better start when he lead them to their first win of the campaign against Felda last weekend. Following the departure of Ashley Westwood, Zainal will also look to draw more confidence from that first win, what with it being their first clean sheet of the league season.
After two successive home defeats, perhaps Zahasmi Ismail and his team will see this away game as a blessing in disguise. Despite their leaky defence, Mohammed Ghaddar's continued excellence in front of goals could prove pivotal in this clash at Batu Kawan Stadium. The Lebanese is the current league's top scorer with 12 goals plundered in thus far.
A quirk in the match-up between the two teams that Zainal would want to avoid is the fact that in each of their last five matches played against each other - Kelantan have scored three goals on each of those occasions. A win will also keep Penang in the contention to finally escape the bottom spot and inch their way into a spot in the Malaysia Cup draw.