GEORGE TOWN: The Premier League resumes Friday after a month-long break with a pall of gloom hanging over Terengganu’s T-Team.
The league leaders will take the field for the first time following the death of captain David Oniya last Saturday.
Oniya collapsed on the pitch just three minutes into the friendly against Kelantan at the Sultan Mohd IV Stadium in Kota Baru. The 30-year-old Nigerian centreback was taken to hospital and pronounced dead 30 minutes later.
T-Team, on 23 points, face Kuala Lumpur at the Inspen Stadium in Bangi looking to protect their two-point lead over second-placed Kedah.
The Canaries, like T-Team, have lost only once in 10 league outings.
Kedah overcame a slow start to notch a maximum 15 points from their last five matches.
Coach Tan Cheng Hoe is hoping that the long break will not affect his players’ momentum as they seek full points against UiTM FC at the Perak Stadium in Ipoh.
“We were on a good run before the long break. The players were kept on their toes during the break with training and friendlies. But we will only know during the UiTM game whether our momentum is affected,” said Cheng Hoe.
“The 10pm kickoff will be tough, especially for the Muslim players. It is just the second day of Ramadan, and their bodies will still be adjusting to the fasting hours. But this cannot be an excuse because every team face the same situation and kickoff time.”
Kedah will take on UiTM without three key players – Nigerian striker Chidi Edeh, South Korean midfielder Bang Seung-hwan and national player Baddrol Bakhtiar.
Said Cheng Hoe: “Chidi injured his groin in training during the break and Baddrol picked up an injury during national duty. Seung-hwan is suspended for one match. All three are important players, but we have able replacements who should do the job against UiTM.
“We want to earn promotion to the Super League. We will treat UiTM with respect because every match and every opponent is important for us.”
Kedah are two points ahead of both Sabah and Penang.
The El Hadji Diouf-inspired Sabah side face a tricky away tie to fifth-placed Negri Sembilan. Fourth-placed Penang, winless away from home but yet to lose at home, will enjoy the comfort of playing at the City Stadium against basement side SPA Putrajaya.
Friday’s six matches will complete the first half of the Premier League fixtures.
All M-League matches will kick off at 10pm during the fasting month.
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