PETALING JAYA: Treble winners Kelantan are set to maintain their supremacy in local football and regain the coveted Malaysia Cup for the third time this season.
The Red Warriors, one of the most consistent sides having won seven honours since 2010, were drawn in Group C with east coast neighbours Terengganu, Pahang and demoted Negri Sembilan.
Kelantan team manager Azman Ibrahim said they want to be the kingpins of Malaysian football and at the same time will not under-estimate their opponents.
“We retained the FA Cup title this year but not before struggling past Terengganu in the semi-finals (6-5 extra-time). We have been consistent in the last three seasons and will keep the fire burning,” said Azman after the draw ceremony for the Malaysia Cup competition held at the Menara TM in Bangsar yesterday.
Azman said besides their stranglehold in domestic football they also want to raise the bar in the AFC Cup competition by being the first Malaysian team to get past the quarter-finals.
Kelantan won the Malaysia Cup, Super League and the FA Cup last season.
“Our aim is to move forward and we will aim to go one step higher,” said Azman.
The top four Super League teams were seeded – Lions XII, Selangor, Johor Darul Takzim and Kelantan.
Newly crowned Super League champions Lions XII of Singapore, who last won the Malaysia Cup in 1994, are among the favourites to put the local teams to shame again.
A modest Lions XII coach V. Sundramoorthy said it will be tough for his side as they will be the team to beat after their heroics en route to the Super League title.
“There are many strong teams around and we have got to be at our best,” said Sundramoorthy, whose team of mostly Under-23 players, are draw in Group D with Perak, Sarawak and Kedah.
Cash-rich Johor Darul Takzim who have a new coach on board – former Valencia and Atletico Madrid manager Cesar Ferrando Jimenez to replace Fandi Ahmad – will be the team to watch in Group B. The others in the group are PKNS FC, T-Team and Felda United.
PKNS FC manager Azmi Adnan said this is their best chance to qualify for their first ever Malaysia Cup quarter-finals.
“We have never got past the group stages in the last four seasons. This year, we have a strong set of players and I am optimistic we can create history and get to the last eight,” said Azmi.
The battle will be tougher in Group A with Selangor, Armed Forces, Sime Darby FC and Johor in the fray.
It is a do-or-die outing for Selangor coach Irfan Bakti, who has to deliver the Cup after two fruitless seasons without any silverwares. Newly promoted Sime Darby should provide a few surprises as they made history last year when they became the first club side to enter the FA Cup final.
The Malaysia Cup competition will kick off on Aug 20 with the quarter-finals scheduled for Sept 27-28 and Oct 4-5. The semi-finals are scheduled for Oct 18-19 and Oct 25-26. The final is on Nov 3.