Influential skipper Hairuddin Omar will be back from a knee injury to bolster for Armed Forces' campaign in Malaysia Cup. - M AZHAR ARIF/The Star
PETALING JAYA: Armed Forces coach B. Sathianathan reckons that his team will be a formidable force in the Malaysia Cup despite a poor outing in the Super League.
The injury-hit Gladiators ended up 10th in the 12-team league and avoided relegation on goal difference on the final day.
Sathia said that his fringe players stepped up towards the tail end of their campaign and were unbeaten in their last five matches.
“We struggled most of the season due to injuries to key players and as expected we were staring at relegation,” said the former national coach.
“Our fringe players proved themselves when given the chance. They did well with wins over top sides Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) and Selangor.
“If our fringe players can beat league champions JDT and runners-up Selangor, I’m confident we can advance further in the Malaysia Cup.
“I always set a high target for the team.”
The Gladiators have an impressive record in the Malaysia Cup – reaching the final in 2012 and a semi-finalist in last year’s edition.
Sathia also will welcome back several injured players - talismanic skipper Hairuddin Omar, defender Irwan Fadly Idrus, midfielder Ahmad Fauzi Saari and striker Rudie Ramli for their Cup challenge.
Meanwhile, defenders Amiridzwan Taj Tajuddin and K. Reuben are expected to return towards the end of the group stage of the competition.
The 56-year-old coach added that these players will have to fight for their spots in the starting eleven and he has planned eight friendly matches before their Cup campaign.
“Those who are coming back into the team need to fight for their spots ... it wouldn’t be fair for the fringe players who had played well in their absence,” added Sathia.