Hodak predicts tough title defence

Kelantan coach Bojan Hodak believes his side will not find it easy to retain their Malaysia Super League title this season.

Kelantan FA jubilantly lifting Malaysia Cup 2012

By ESPNSTAR.com staff

The Red Warriors won the M-League in style last campaign, amassing an amazing 60 points from 26 games to finish 10 points clear of nearest challengers LIONSXII.

Hodak and his men also lifted the FA Cup and the Malaysia Cup last season, beating Sime Darby and ATM 1-0 and 3-2 respectively in the finals, to cap off the most successful year in the club's history.

Unsurprisingly, Kelantan have once again been made favourites to dominate the Malaysian football scene this season, but Hodak claims his side are far from the powerhouses everyone has made them out to be, pinpointing the recent sales of certain key players as being detrimental to their chances of retaining the title.

Speaking to the New Straits Times, Hodak said: "We are not as potent up front as last year, as we will be without (Mohamad) Ghaddar, Norshahrul (Idlan Talaha), S. Chanturu, Nurul Azwan (Roya), Ramzul (Zahini Adnan) and Azlan (Ismail) who have gone to other teams.

"Of course, we have brought in (Keita) Mandjou, Haris (Safwan), Faiz (Subri) and Zairo (Anuar Zailani) and several young players but they will take time to gel with the rest of the team."

Hodak had been kept busy the past few weeks preparing Kelantan for the upcoming season; the Red Warriors have taken part in a total eight friendly matches so far, but despite a mixed run of results, including wins against Palm Beach FC (3-0), Perlis FA (5-0) and Kedah FA (4-0), a draw against Brunei DPMM (1-1) and a loss to Semen Padang FC (4-2), the 41-year-old tactician proudly claims his side are improving with every game.

And with Kelantan set to take on ATM in the Malaysia Chartiy Shield on Saturday, Hodak knows it is an excellent opportunity for his charges to make a statement of intent to the rest of the teams in the league.

"The real test will come this Saturday at Shah Alam Stadium when we take on Armed Forces in the Charity Shield," Hodak added.

"Quite a number of teams,including Johor Darul Takzim and Selangor, will be challenging for honours in the new season.

"Being the defending champions, we are going to be the target of every competing team who will make it their mission to beat us. 

"All I can say now is that we are not going to be that easy to beat."

Kelantan were involved in last year's Charity Shield encounter but failed to win the cup after being beaten 2-1 by Negeri Sembilan FA.

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