GEORGE TOWN: Kelantan will not underestimate Sabah when they begin their FA Cup title defence in the second round match in Kota Baru on Tuesday night.
The Red Warriors, who received an opening round bye, are the overwhelming favourites to subdue the Rhinos and move into the quarter-finals. Sabah, who defeated Kuantan FA 1-0 in the opening round, have since lost both their first two Premier League fixtures.
But Kelantan coach Steve Darby does not want to leave anything to chance, and will name his strongest line-up for the second round tie.
“It is sensible to say that Kelantan are the favourites to win. But we will take this match seriously and give Sabah the same respect as if we are playing JDT (Super League side Johor Darul Ta’zim),” said Darby.
“Our priority is to qualify for the next round ... I will name my strongest eleven to ensure we live up to the defending champions’ tag.”
Egyptian midfielder Mohammad Shawky has recovered from injury and will start for Kelantan while defender Nazri Ahmad is still doubtful and will be put through a fitness test.
The Kelantan-Sabah clash is one of six second round matches, including two all-Super League team ties, to be played on Tuesday.
PKNS FC will be gunning for revenge when they host Terengganu at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium in Paroi. The Turtles had won the Super League meeting between the two teams 2-1 in Kuala Terengganu three weeks ago.
Besides enjoying home ground advantage, PKNS will also be feeling bullish this time around following their 2-1 upset league win over Kelantan in Kota Baru last Tuesday.
The other match involving top flight teams is the Selangor-Sarawak afternoon kick-off at the MBPJ Stadium in Kelana Jaya. Selangor’s Brazilian strike partnership of Junior de Souza and Paulo Rangel are firing on all cylinders. After surging to the top of the Super League standings, the Red Giants will be out to continue their good form against Sarawak.
Premier League leaders Kedah and Police will want to maintain their 100% start to the season when they take on fellow Second-Division teams Perlis and PBAPP FC respectively in their second round matches.
Kedah thrashed Perlis 4-1 at the Darulaman Stadium in the league two weeks ago and will be the favourites to beat the same opponents at the same venue in the FA Cup.
Police want to deliver a perfect get-well gift to their coach Dollah Salleh, who is recuperating after undergoing heart surgery last week, when they take on PBAPP at the City Stadium.
But the Waterboys, the only team besides Lions XII with an all-local line-up, have been the surprise package so far this season.
The Penang club side booked their place in the second round with a 2-0 win over Cebagoo FC and have held both fancied Felda United and Negri Sembilan to hard-earned draws in the league.
“We do not have any star players in the team but the local kids have made me proud by proving that they are capable of punching above their weight,” said PBAPP coach Yunus Alif.
“We will go all out against Police to stay afloat in the FA Cup and I hope my players can continue to prove the detractors wrong.”
The winner of the Police-PBAPP match will go on to play Pahang, who ousted Lions XII 2-1 last Saturday, in the quarter-finals.
The remaining second round tie involves Super League team Sime Darby, who entertain Premier League side Felda United at the Selayang Stadium.