Armed Forces striker Juan Arostegui (left) is still recovering from a fractured hand. - Filepic
PETALING JAYA: It’s a case of when it rains it pours for Armed Forces coach B. Sathianathan.
The injury-hit Gladiators ended 10th in the 12-team Super League and just avoided relegation on goal difference on the final day.
Despite the narrow escape, Sathianathan was hoping to put up a strong challenge in the ongoing Malaysia Cup and had even set a last-eight target.
However, the injury curse, that was a real bother for the coach throughout their league campaign, has struck again after midfielder Mohd Affize Faisal Mamat was involved in a road accident before Hari Raya – two weeks before their Malaysia Cup campaign.
To add to his woes, their Argentinian striker Juan Arostegui’s return was put on hold after a blood clot was found in his thighs while still recovering from a fractured hand sustained during their league campaign.
The 56-year-old coach said that he would have to rush Arostegui’s return if his Haitian striker Fabrice Noel cannot shrug off a viral infection.
Sathia also added his target to reach the last eight stays despite the crisis and he will have to make the players believe in their abilities to spring a surprise.
“The whole season is plagued by freak accidents and suspensions but that doesn’t mean we will throw in the towel.
“We managed to fend off relegation from the Super League with five matches to play when no one expected it,” said Sathia.
Sathia, who is still sore with the opening day 1-1 draw with Penang last week, said that they can ill afford complacency to creep in for their next Group C match against Super League champions and Malaysia Cup favourites Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) at the Larkin Stadium on Tuesday.
“We can’t be dropping points any more but it’s always harder to play a team who have just won the league,” said the former national team coach.
“JDT will have Luciano (Figueroa) back from suspension and their internationals, who played for Malaysia in a friendly against Tajikistan on Aug 8, will be fresher for this match too ... we have an uphill battle but I hope we take a point from this match.”