GEORGE TOWN: Premier League outfit Penang have no qualms about being drawn with the Super League big guns in the Malaysia Cup.
The islanders, who are making a return to the competition after six years, have the new Super League champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), the 2010 and 2012 Malaysia Cup champions Kelantan and the 2012 runners-up Armed Forces for company in Group C.
Instead of fretting about the tough oppositions, Penang team manager Mohd Azizudin Shariff welcomes the challenge.
“It is a treat for Penang fans who have been starved of Malaysia Cup action for so long, to see us in a action against three strong Super League opponents,” said Azizudin on Friday.
“Penang are not in the tournament to make up the numbers, so we welcome the challenge of playing the best teams in the country. We will take it match by match and like everyone else, hope to qualify for the quarter-finals.”
After winning the third-tier FAM Cup in 2013, the K. Devan-coached Panthers made others sit up and take notice this year when they finished ahead of more fancied teams like Negri Sembilan, Kedah and JDT II in the Premier League.
Penang missed out on promotion to the Super League after finishing third behind the star-studded Police and Felda United sides.
“Our preparations are going on well and we intend to be the surprise package of the group,” said Devan.
“I am not putting unnecessary pressure on the players to deliver because we are up against the big guns that will be well prepared for this tournament. It is a tough group, but if my players can stay disciplined and work hard, we are capable of pulling off some surprises.”
Penang will be depending on the lively South Korean duo – defender Lee Kwang-hyun and attacking midfielder Lee Gil-hoon – and Angolan forward Titi Buengo, to navigate through the tough obstacles.
The Premier League side have lined up three friendlies – against Perak (in Ipoh on Tuesday), Selangor (in Shah Alam on Thursday) and Sime Darby (at the City Stadium on Aug 6) before opening their Malaysia Cup accounts against Armed Forces at the Selayang Stadium on Aug 13.
The Panthers have not lifted the Malaysia Cup trophy since their fourth triumph exactly 40 years ago.