Khairul Fahmi Che Mat in a file photo. Yangon United's hitman Emerson Luiz scored twice against the Kelantan goalkeeper during Yangon’s 5-3 victory in Myanmar on Feb 26.
GEORGE TOWN: Kelantan coach Steve Darby has pinpointed Yangon United’s Emerson Luiz as the main threat to the Red Warriors’ attempt to stay alive in the AFC Cup.
The 2013 Malaysian FA Cup winners need nothing less than a victory when they take on the reigning Myanmar champions in their Group G encounter in Kota Baru tonight.
Darby believes that Kelantan need to keep Brazilian striker Luiz under wraps if they are to collect the vital three points.
Luiz scored twice against national goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat during Yangon’s 5-3 victory in the corresponding fixture in Myanmar on Feb 26.
“If there is one player whom we need to watch out for, it is their No. 20 (Luiz),” said Darby on Monday.
“He was an exceptional player in the Yangon side when we played them earlier in Myanmar. We want to keep him under close watch in Kota Baru, but it will not be an easy task as the Brazilian roams around the pitch and does not stick to one position.”
Kelantan, who were thrashed 0-4 by the group leaders Ninh Binh in Vietnam last week, are still in the running for a top-two finish in the group to qualify for the last 16. With two rounds of matches to go, Ninh Binh are already through to the knockout stage with a 100% win record, leaving the other three teams to fight for the second berth.
Yangon are second on six points, three points ahead of both Kelantan and South China of Hong Kong.
Kelantan will be without three key attacking players – Egyptian Mohammed Shawky and Shakir Ali, both suspended, and Ahmad Fakri Saarani, who slipped and strained his groin during the 1-0 Super League win over Armed Forces last Saturday.
Nigerian defender Obinna Nwaneri also required stitches above his eye after getting a knock against the soldiers, but should be ready to take on Yangon.
“I will field my best available line-up against Yangon as we need to win at all costs,” said Darby.
“The players have not had much recovery time since returning from Vietnam last Thursday as they were in action in the league on Saturday and again tomorrow. But the plus point of playing in the AFC Cup on Tuesday instead of the usual Wednesday is that we will have an extra day of rest ahead of our next Super League game on Saturday.”
Darby also confirmed that the Kelantan team management have no plans so far to replace any of their four foreign players during the mid-season transfer window in April. Besides Nwaneri and Shawky, the other two imports on Kelantan’s books are Lebanese Mohammad Ghaddar and Liberian Francis Doe.