PETALING JAYA: Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) will play all their remaining matches in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL) at their home, the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium, but stalwart Mohd Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak says it’s no big advantage.
The AFC announced earlier this week that Malaysia will host the remainder of the Group G and Group H matches of the ACL, as well as the Round of 16, two quarter-final matches and the semi-final.
Group G comprises Vissel Kobe (Japan), JDT, Guangzhou Evergrande (China) and Suwon Bluewings (South Korea) while Yokohama F. Marinos (Japan), Jeonbuk FC (South Korea), Sydney FC (Australia) and Shanghai SIPG FC (China) make up Group H.
JDT will now be completing their Group G matches with four more matches at home against Guangzhou (twice), Vissel and Suwon.
In their short time in the group stages of Asia’s top-tier club competition, JDT have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with at home following wins over heavyweights like Kashima Antlers (2019) and Suwon (2020).
The Southern Tigers, currently placed second in Group G, are expected to capitalise on home advantage and make it through to the knockout stage in only their second year in the competition.
Defender Aidil, one of the most decorated players with JDT, downplayed the advantage as the team would miss their vociferous fan support in the stadium.
“We do have an advantage playing at home. We are used to playing and training on the pitch but due to the Covid-19 situation we will likely be without our fans, ” said the 32-year-old
“The stadium stands will be empty and we will miss the fans and the advantage of the home support... so we only have the familiarity with the playing pitch and I just hope we can use this advantage to get positive results.”
The Southern Tigers are making their second consecutive appearance in the ACL and Aidil said the team were much wiser now and the players in high spirits to resume their football campaign starting with the Super League on Aug 26 followed by the ACL campaign from Oct 17.
“Our first year in the ACL in 2019 was to gain experience. We finished bottom of the group but this year we want to push harder and see how far we can go. We don’t want to repeat our mistakes and aim to use our experience better, ” said centreback Aidil.
“In terms of fitness, we are all fit following the trainings but we lack match fitness. We will only get to play friendly matches after tomorrow (Aug 2).
“These matches will be our warm-up matches before we restart our campaign.”