Battle for East Coast Supremacy!

Kelantan's Mohd Badhri Mohd Radzi (2nd right) get past through ATM players during the Final Era Malaysia Cup 2012 between Kelantan and ATM.

DEAR Malaysians! brace yourself for one of the most intense Malaysia Cup finals in history!

Sold out tickets, Ultras in full force and players eager to get their hands on the cup - This is local football at its best. I may be celebrating Deepavali, but Nov 3, my eyes will be glued on the television.

Run-up to the final is nothing short but controversial. Fans have complained about the high ticket price and two days ago, Football Association (PBNP) only allowed Pahang born fans to purchase the tickets at Kuantan, Pahang.

This final has got everyone talking and coaches like B.Sathianthan, Ong Kim Swee and Azraai Khor Abdullah already gave their predictions for the final this Sunday.

Sathia and Azraai have tipped Kelantan to retain their title but Kim Swee sees Pahang nicking the title after 21 years. Pahang last won the title in 1992.

Even celebrities, Noor Neelofa Mohd Noor or better known as Neelofa and Siti Nurhaliza are behind their teams for the final. Neelofa who hails from Kelantan supports the Red Warriors while Siti is looking forward to a Pahang win.

Now, let The Gaffer give his predictions for the final. Having been on-the-ground since the group stages, both these teams have done well to reach the final.

Since the start tournament, I've earmarked Kelantan to be the favourites for the title and it wasn't a surprise to see them qualify for the final.

Under Bojan Hodak, Kelantan have looked formidable throughout the tournament although they didn't fare well in the Super League.

They were hit with injuries during the league but for the Malaysia Cup, they had a full strength side.

In goal, they have got National number one goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat. This will be his third Malaysia Cup final and at the age 24, he is experienced enough to handle the might of the final.

However, the Red Warriors will miss the presence of Obinna Nwaneri who is suspended. Obinna has been instrumental for Kelantan this season and his absence will affect the side.

Even Kim Swee said that the absence of the former Nigerian international will give Pahang an added advantage.

Azizi Mat Rose and Nik Shahrul Nik Azim will be tasked to handle the backline while veteran defender Zairul Fitree Ishak and Daudsu Jamaludidin will be the marauding wingbacks.

Badhri Radzi or also known as Piya will be the key man in midfield and if the 'Elephants' allow him to control the midfield, then they are in big trouble.

Piya has already netted 5 goals and together with former international, Indra Putra Mahayuddin they have run riot in the cup. Shakir Shaari will play the 'Makalele' role and he is also one of the unsung heroes for Kelantan.

Dickson 'The Steel' Nwakaeme will be the key man in attack and with six goals, expect him to be one of the players in the scoresheet. When he played in Selayang, ATM coach, Sathia called him one of the most strongest players in the league. Damion Stewart, take note!

Pahang will be looking to win the title after 21 years with players like Azamuddin Akil, Matias Conti, Azidan Saruddin and Stewart in their side, they will give Kelantan a run for their money.

Another Khairul, Khairul Azhan played a key role in the semi-finals against ATM and the keeper will be expected to continue his good form in the final.

Stewart and Razman Roslan will be hard to crack on their day but against Dickson, they will have to be on their toes and I've a very strong feeling Stewart will be given the duty to mark Dickson.

R.Surendran and R.Gopinathan will be the players to watch for this game. These speedy wingers are able to sprint past any wing-backs with ease. Zairul and Daudsu will have a tough time checking the runs of these two players.

Conti has scored eight goals in the cup already and will want to win the cup and the golden boot award. With Obinna suspended, the 23-year-old Argentinian will surely take advantage of his absence and exploit Kelantan's weakened defense. ATM's Marlon James currently top the goalscoring charts with nine goals.

So, who will win this tie? Based on my prediction, I'm going for a Kelantan win because of their experience and one talisman who can win it for them - Piya.

This will be a cracking final and to all the 75,000 fans going to Shah Alam Stadium - Have fun and be responsible at the same time!

Who will lift the title? Will it be Piya or Pahang's veteran skipper, Jalaluddin Jaafar? Nov 3 will be a day to remember for all local football fans. Looking forward to a pulsating final!
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