The 2018 Malaysia domestic season is approaching its tail end, with only a handful of matches remaining before the curtains close on yet another campaign.
Most of the attention is on Malaysia Super League (MSL) champions elect Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), who are only one win away from clinching the league with a 13-point advantage.
But the second division Premier League is also drawing to a close, with a few leading, yet surprising contenders in line to return to top flight. FOX Sports Asia zeroes in on the teams heading the charge for an MSL return in 2019.
Felda United FC
Like JDT, Felda emerged favourites for a swift return to the Premier League by going on an 11-match unbeaten run. They suffered a shock 3-0 defeat to MISC-MIFA in May, which drew the ire of head coach B. Satiananthan.
The professionalism and immense work ethic of the Fighters stems from the leadership of Satia, who is highly regarded in the well-knit squad. Felda were not even supposed to be relegated from the MSL after finishing third last year.
But due to incompetency of the club management for failing to register their players on time, Felda were demoted. Keeping a core squad from last season that includes Thiago Fernandes, Hadin Azman, Christie Jayaseelan and Wan Zack Haikal, it will take only two victories for Felda to confirm their top flight status.
Felcra United FC
Felcra’s story will be an inspirational fairytale should they secure an MSL berth in 2019. The Federal Land Consolidation club were supposed to compete in the third-tier FAM league this year, but after Sime Darby pulled out of the Premier League in 2017, Felcra were invited to take up their spot.
And they have taken full advantage of being given that advantage by occupying second spot. Leading their promotion charge is Brazilian forward Casagrande, who has fired home 14 goals to date.
The other reason of their high ranking is their compact defence, led by talisman captain Shahrom Kalam, formerly of Selangor FA and Perak FA. Like Felda, Felcra have only lost one game all season. If they can keep that up, they will be playing alongside JDT and Kedah FA in 2019.
A glitzy season unveiling at the season start, complete with flashy sports cars and a swanky team bus drew skeptics if the Cops needed to be so extravagant before the league had begun.
But that bold move translated into same characteristics on the pitch, and Zulhamizan Zakaria’s men are pushing Felcra hard for a promotion spot. With their former head coach Fauzi Pilus and former national striker Khalid Jamlus as his assistants, PDRM have done well to stay in contention until this stage of the campaign.
Having a balanced blend of quality in their local and foreign players, do not be surprised if PDRM pip Felcra to second spot come end of the season.