PETALING JAYA: Do not underestimate Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) although they have dropped key player Gonzalo Gabrera from their Asian Champions League challenge.
In place of the 31-year-old Argentine-Iraqi, coach Benjamin Mora has named Australian Shane Lowry to beef up the defence for the tournament which starts from June 22-July 7 at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok.
JDT are in Group G with Japan’s Nagoya Grampus Eight, South Korean club Pohang Steelers and Thai club Ratchaburi.
Mora said he had to drop Cabrera, who has been a vital cog for the Southern Tigers since 2017, to bring an extra defender for the Asian quota.
“We had to omit Gonzalo because of the four foreign player quota.
“We picked Shane because he can support Mauricio Dos Santos at the back, ” Mora said in a statement issued by the club.
“We need Shane as Shahrul Saad is still injured and is currently undergoing rehabilitation, ”
Lowry, who was signed during the second transfer window to help the team in the Champions League, is no stranger to the big stage.
The 32-year-old has played in the English Premier League, Australian A-League and most recently for Al-Ahli in the Qatar Stars League.
Without Gabrera, Mora has other options on the flanks such as Safawi Rasid, Arif Aiman Hanapi, Mohamadou Sumareh, Akhyar Rashid and Ramadhan Saifullah.
He has also picked Leandro Velazquez to add depth in the midfield.
Syafiq Ahmad has been included based on his performance in the national team while Ahmad Hazwan Bakri made the cut for his fine showing in training.
“On top of that, Guilherme de Paula will provide good back-up for Bergson da Silva upfront, ” he said.
Mora has also included several JDT II youngsters such as Feroz Baharudin, Chia Ruo Han and Firdaus Ramli.
“I’ve chosen them because they have shown promising display in training.
“This opportunity will provide them with valuable experience.”
Last year, JDT played two games in Group G, where they lost to Japan’s Vissel Kobe 1-5 but pulled off a shock win against South Korean giants Suwon Samsung Bluewings 2-1.
However, JDT didn’t play the remainder of the games as they withdrew from the competition due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Goalkeepers: Farizal Marlias, Haziq Nadzli and Izham Tarmizi.
Defenders: Matthew Davies, Adam Nor Azlin, S. Kunanlan, Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, Shane Lowry, Feroz Baharudin, Azrif Nasrulhaq, La’vere Corbin Ong, Mauricio Santos and Firdaus Ramli.
Midfielders: Afiq Fazail, Syamer Kutty Abba, Safiq Rahim, Leandro Velazquez, Danial Amier Norhisham, Nazmi Faiz Mansor Natxo Insa, Chia Ruo Han, Mohamadou Sumareh, Ramadhan Saifullah, Akhyar Rashid, Safawi Rasid and Arif Aiman Hanapi.
Strikers: Bergson Da Silva, Guilherme De Paula, Syafiq Ahmad and Ahmad Hazwan Bakri.