CAUSEWAY rivals Malaysia and Singapore will be eager to record a favourable result when they face off in the Airmarine Cup at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil today.
It is expected to be an evenly contested match with each team winning twice with other matches ending in draws in their last 10 meetings.
The stakes are high going into the match with both teams hoping to earn valuable points from the Airmarine Cup in hope of being ranked in the top-34 bracket in Asia prior to the 2023 AFC Asian Cup draw. Malaysia are currently ranked 35th in Asia, one rung below Singapore.
For Tan Cheng Hoe, he hopes his team will continue their impressive form from last year’s run of reaching the AFF Cup final.
Going by form, Malaysia hold a slight advantage as Singapore players were only gathered on Monday due to their commitments in the S-League while Cheng Hoe has had his boys in training since March 12.
Malaysia, however, will be deprived of some of their top players in Safawi Rasid, Syahmi Safari, Akhyar Rashid and Syamer Kutty Abba who are with the national youth team for the AFC Under-23 Qualifiers.
Cheng Hoe has called up several players, some who are newcomers, for the tournament and he believes they will be able to fill up the void.
“Everything is going as planned. The players are eager to do battle against Singapore,” said Cheng Hoe in yesterday’s pre-match conference in Subang.
Striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha is down with flu but Cheng Hoe is hopeful that the experienced player will be able to recover before the match. Other players have been certified fit.
FA of Malaysia hope fans will pack the venue today but it may not happen as the passionate Ultras Malaya supporters are expected to boycott the Airmarine Cup. Fans are unhappy with the RM35 ticket price for the match.
However, Captain Zaquan Adha Radzak hopes Ultras Malaya will turn up to support the national team.
Zaquan also believes his makeshift side with 12 changes from the AFF Cup team will be competitive today.
“Some have been with the team before, so I am confident we will gel accordingly.
“It is our first match of the season, and we hope to start it with a bang,” he added.
As for Singapore, they only need to deny Malaysia a win to secure their spot in the second round of the Asian Cup qualifiers.
Singapore coach Nazri Nasir remembers fondly the many Causeway battles between both sides and hopes that the new generation will continue to see how big the fixture is.
“I was appointed the head coach about three weeks ago. I only gathered the players yesterday (Monday) and we have had only one training session .
“There’s a lot of history against Malaysia. I want my players to treat the match like a final and beat Malaysia,” he said.