JDT kick off AFC Cup campaign with something to prove

Johor Darul Ta’zim embark on their AFC Cup campaign against Cambodia’s Boeung Ket Angkor on Tuesday in a strange situation.

Having dominated domestic football for the last three seasons, the 2015 AFC champions head into the tie languishing in eighth position in the Malaysia Super League with just five points from their opening four games.

A vastly reshuffled JDT squad are also coming off the back of a first domestic defeat in 25 matches after losing 2-1 to Felda United at the weekend, but coach Benjamin Mora is not overly concerned.

“We are in the process of rebuilding the team, having included seven new young players and three new foreigners. We can only get better as the season progresses,” said Mora, who was appointed on January 18 following the shock departure of Argentine Mario Gomez.

Still, the reigning Malaysian champions are clearly not as potent up front following the loss of their Argentinian strike force Juan Martin Lucero and Jorge Pereyra Diaz, who between them bagged 43 goals for the club last season, including several crucial strikes in the AFC Cup.

Their opponents Boeung Ket Angkor are the first Cambodian side to qualify for the AFC Cup following a fiery 2-1 aggregate win over Lao Toyota in the playoff round.

Deprived of the talents of star forward Chan Vathanaka following his move to the J.League, John McGlynn’s side will rely on Vathanaka’s Cambodia national team colleague Khoun Laboravy and recent recruit Brazilian Maycon Rogerio Calijuri for goals at the Larkin Stadium.

Australian McGlynn recently took charge of Boeung Ket for a second time, and they come into the game in good form after an impressive 3-0 win in Cambodia’s charity shield game last weekend.