Kelantan vs ATM: Key Battles

The Malaysia Cup will be up for grabs on Sunday when treble-chasing Kelantan lock horns with newly-promoted ATM at the Shah Alam Stadium.

Malaysia Cup: ATM vs Kelantan

By Gabriel Tan

Having already been crowned champions of the Super League and the FA Cup, the Red Warriors will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Kedah by becoming only the second team to complete the domestic treble in Malaysian football history.

ATM, on the other hand, will be looking to win the nation's most-prestigious competition for the first time in their history and cap off what has already been a fruitful year, after they sealed promotion from the Premier League back in July.

Both teams met earlier in the competition this year during the group stage, with the first encounter ending in a 1-1 draw at the Majlis Perbandaran Selayang Stadium, before Kelantan edged a 4-3 thriller in Kota Bharu.

Ahead of Saturday evening's eagerly-anticipated clash, ESPNSTAR.com takes a look at the battles all over the park that could prove decisive.

Norshahrul Idlan Talaha vs Amirizwan Taj Tajuddin

Both Norfarhan Muhammad and Mohammed Ghaddar, who have combined for seven of Kelantan's 20 goals in the competition this year, are suspended for the final, meaning the responsibility of finding the back of the net will fall to Malaysia international Norshahrul.

However, given his ability and international pedigree, there is no better man to lead the Red Warriors attack, and ATM coach B. Sathianathan, who used to be in charge of Kelantan, has identified his former charge as an 'unpredictable' player who "can cause problems".

With Armed Forces defender Irwan Fadzli Idrus suspended, Amirizwan will be handed the responsibility of quelling the threat of his international colleague, although he will have plenty of assistance from Aidil Zafuan.

Amirizwan has the physical prowess to contend with the stocky Kelantan striker but whether he can cope in terms of pace remains to be seen. There is also no one better at capitalising when the ball hits the deck and the ATM defence will have to be on their toes to prevent Norshahrul an inch of space.

Badhri Radzi vs Bruno Martelotto


While this isn't exactly a head-to-head battle, both playmakers are likely to have a huge say on the outcome of the game depending on who is able to create more for their respective sides.

Badhri has the greater arsenal to call upon as he is not only capable of dictating the tempo and getting into goalscoring positions, but he is also arguably the second-best dead-ball specialist in the country behind Malaysia captain Safiq Rahim.

Martelotto, on the other hand, has had a quiet campaign after starring for ATM in the Premier League, but he has shown glimpses of brilliance occasionally, notably in the quarter-final first leg against Negri Sembilan.

The Argentinean also put in an accomplished display against the Red Warriors in the group stage, with opposition coach Bojan Hodak admitting he "caused us a lot of trouble". Should his team-mates be able to shackle Badhri and give him his fair share of the ball, Martelotto is more than capable of carving open the Red Warriors backline.

Khairul Fahmi vs Marlon Alex James


If Martelotto does get possession, the first team-mate he will be looking to pass it to will be James, who has already netted 32 times in all competition this year.

Despite being 35, the Vincentian international has lost none of his pace and has added guile to his game with his years of experience, making him a terrifying prospect to defend against.

While Obinna Nwaneri is one of the best centre-backs in Malaysia, James is still likely to get a couple of sightings at goal given his quality, meaning it becomes even more important for Kelantan that Khairul Fahmi is up to the task.

Nonetheless, the 23-year-old is one of the best shot-stoppers in Asia but given his lack of height, in the air is where he could really be caught out by the towering Armed Forces spearhead.

Daudsu Jamaluddin vs Zaquan Adha

While Sathianathan's preference of a 4-2-3-1 formation means James usually has to contend with two centre-backs by himself, he gets plenty of support down the wings from Zaquan and D. Christie Jayaseelan.

Zaquan in particular is more than capable of playing as an out-and-out striker and his attacking instincts have made him a useful outlet in the final third throughout his career.

Daudsu will have to call on all his experience to ensure the ATM forward does not get in behind him and make his way into the box, while Zaquan's frequent forays down the wing mean the Kelantan full-back is unlikely to be able to provide support when his side push forward.

S. Subramaniam vs Hairuddin Omar


Hairuddin is looming as another wild card for ATM, and he will be looking to win the Malaysia Cup for the fifth time in his career on Saturday.

Given the midfield general spent much of his career playing as a striker, the veteran has an uncanny knack of popping up in dangerous positions, which helped him net 12 goals in the league campaign.

His late runs from midfield means he is often left unmarked inside the area waiting for a delivery from either Zaquan or Christie, and Subramaniam will have to be alert enough to mark him whenever he does so, or else the man affectionately known as 'Hai-O' could just become a five-time Malaysia Cup winner.

Possible ATM starting XI (4-2-3-1): (22) Farizal Harun, (2) K. Reuben, (7) Aidil Zafuan,  (24) Amirizwan Taj Tajuddin, (14) Azmi Muslim, (23) Rezal Zambery, (20) Hairuddin Omar, (8) Zaquan Adha, (10) Bruno Martelotto, (19) D. Christie Jayaseelan, (9) Marlon Alex James.




Possible Kelantan starting XI (4-4-2): (19) Khairul Fahmi, (5) Nik Shahrul Azim, (4) Obinna Nwaneri, (3) S. Subramaniam, (15) Daudsu Jamaluddin, (13) Indra Putra Mahayuddin, (8) Shakir Shaari, (16) Badhri Radzi, (12) Nurul Azwan Roya, (9) Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, (35) Afiq Azmi.

 




*Tactics image is generated courtesy of the Football Dood app from sportsdood.com



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