GEORGE TOWN: Selangor and Penang will put their external issues on the backburner when they meet today in their Super League season opener at the Selayang Stadium.
On paper, the 2016 Malaysia Cup finalists Selangor will start as favourites but Penang coach Ashley Westwood is feeling bullish over the Panthers’ chances.
“Selangor may have had problems off the field but it means nothing when the match starts. They’ve got a squad full of good players and I am all excited for the chance to face them in the opening game.
“It’s the start of the season and everyone begins with a clean slate. Let’s go and see what Selangor’s got. We will not play a defensive game ... we are going to take them on toe to toe,” said the Englishman.
Both the respective state football associations have seen a change in the presidency during the off season.
Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali stepped down as Football Association of Selangor (FAS) president in December following a dispute with his FA council members over state funding for the team.
Datuk Seri Nazir Ariff let go of the Football Association of Penang (FAP) top post on Thursday after three years at the helm.
Both teams are also heading into the 2017 campaign with new coaches, new-look squads and injuries to key players.
The P. Maniam-coached Red Giants were dealt a huge blow when their skipper Andik Vermansyah was ruled out for three months with a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury.
The 25-year-old midfielder picked up the injury while on national duty with Indonesia in the AFF Suzuki Cup.
Penang are heading to Selayang with question marks hanging over the fitness of three key players. First choice goalkeeper Sani Anuar Kamsani (knee), playmaker S. Kumaahran (ankle) and chief striker Nigel Dabinyaba (hamstring) missed training this week and are doubtful.
Despite the setback, Westwood is putting up a brave front ahead of his first taste of M-League action.
“I am still hopeful of getting at least one of them fit to face Selangor.
“But it’s not really a big blow if they can’t play,” added Westwood.
“Injuries happens in every team. No team is going to be 100% fit all the time.”
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