Johor Darul Ta’zim’s (JDT) six-match unbeaten streak in all competitions is expected to be severely tested by Global FC of the Philippines.
Newly-hired coach Toshiaki Imai has transformed Global into a formidable unit in their quest of making a breakthrough in the AFC Cup.
Global, who were champions in the United Football League (UFL) last season, have won their opening two matches in the competition and they currently lead the group.
Imai’s side have not played many matches this season as the Philippines Football League (a replacement to the UFL) only starts next month but the shortcoming has not affected them in terms of match temperament and fitness in the AFC Cup.
JDT’s rotation policy has helped the club sustain the ongoing hectic season and coach Benjamin Mora is expected to make wholesale changes for the match.
For the record, JDT have not lost an AFC Cup match in Johor Bahru with 10 wins and two draws since their debut in 2015. They had formerly played in the AFC Cup in 2009 but they were known then as Johor FC.
“We want to win every game in all competitions. Different teams have different strategies and most who come here play defensively,” said Mora.
“I am trying to build a team with mobility to sustain the hectic season. The goal now is to make sure my players are 100 per cent in-shape for the match against Global following the 4-0 win over University Technology Malaysia in the FA Cup third round on March 11.”
Mora’s rotation policy was earlier criticised but it is now paying dividends as he can afford to play a different starting line-up in every match.
“We are still work in progress,” he added. “We have been averaging 68 per cent of possession in matches this year. The goal is to eventually achieve 80 per cent of possession in each match.
“It is not easy to achieve but we are heading there. The players need to be patient against defensive teams…need to build from the back and find gaps or channels in the opponent’s half for scoring opportunities.”
JDT are second in the group with four points. They defeated Cambodia’s Boeung Ket Angkor FC 3-0 in their opening match at home on February 21 but were held 1-1 by Myanmar’s Magwe FC in Yangon on March 7.
The 2015 champions have no issues in scoring goals but they need to be defensively stout and tight in midfield to get the better of Global.
JDT are not as dominant compared to 2015 and 2016 but they certainly have quality players to sustain the pace in all competitions.
Darren, who was recruited from Malaysia Premier League (MPL) side Johor Darul Ta’zim II (JDT) early this year, has not featured for JDT as he is recovering from a broken leg, sustained six weeks ago in a training match.
However, Hasbullah’s absence will not affect JDT as they have able replacements in S. Kunanlan, Mahali Jasuli and Azrif Nasrulhaq for the right-back position.
“I am not too bothered with the absence of some players as for every position, I have replacements," said Mora.
“When we played Magwe (on March 7), I fielded a completely different line-up from the 3-2 win over Pahang in a Malaysia Super League (MSL) match on March 3 and after that, I made 10 changes in the win over UITM (on March 11).
“I will also make changes against Global as I want to keep the players fresh throughout the season."
Global have foreign signings in Japan’s Shu Sasaki, Brazil’s Wesley Santos and Trinidad & Tobago’s Darryl Roberts and also eight heritage players from various countries.
The versatile Guerra can play in any attacking position but is most effective in midfield. The 24-year-old Argentine was initially with JDT II before he was promoted to JDT outside the transfer window based on the feeder club agreement.
Guerra has been remarkable for JDT with five goals in all competitions. The attacking midfielder-cum-winger is pacey and skillful, and he is not afraid of taking on players and scoring goals.
After the hiccup in Yangon against Magwe, the Johor side are expected to start him against Global to ensure a win.
The Netherlands-born Mulders is one of the most-feared attacking midfielders in the Philippines. Despite being 37-years-old, Mulders, who formerly played for the Philippines, is fast and sharp, and can also score from half-chances.
- Global's English-born midfielder Matthew Hartmann comes from a family of footballers. His younger brother, Mark plays for Malaysia Super League side Sarawak while his older brother, Darren was formerly a member of the Philippines Under-21 team.
- Global have just played four matches this year, recording three wins and one defeat with Mulders being the top scorer with two goals.
- JDT have not lost at home since the 2-1 defeat to Felda United in a Malaysia Cup match on November 11, 2015.
- Argentine forward Gonzalo Cabrera is currently JDT's leading scorer with six goals in all competitions, followed by Gabriel Guerra (five goals) and national striker Ahmad Hazwan Bakri (four goals).
- Brazilian defender Marcos Antonio is the only surviving foreign player from JDT's 2015 AFC Cup winning squad.