PENANG: In the past, Kedah coach Jorgen Larsen has always frowned upon long breaks in the middle of the season as he considered it to be a disruption to his team's momentum.
But this time around, the Dane just cannot wait for tonight's match against Sabah to be over to start his side's three-week mid-season break.
The reason for his change of opinion is due to the mounting injury list and that the Canaries need a break badly after enduring a series of tough matches.
The most recent casualties were attacking midfielders G. Shanmugam and Senegalese Matar Diop, victims of hard tackles in their bruising 1-0 victory at Pahang on Saturday.
“Based on the league standings, we are doing well enough to be placed second with one match remaining at the halfway mark.”
“But in reality, we are limping towards the much needed three-week break as my players need the rest badly to recuperate and prepare for the second half of the season's assault,” said Larsen yesterday.
After tonight's games, the next round of Premier I matches will only be held on May 20 to accommodate the national team's pre-Olympics qualifiers and also the two-legged FA Cup semi-finals.
Kedah are already missing the services of top marksman Akmal Rizal Rakhli and Irwan Fadly Idrus, who are both on national duty, while strikers Mohd Rafdi Rashid and Che Hishamuddin Hassan are still carrying injuries.
“Usually, I am confident enough to predict that Kedah will grab all three points at home but today is an exception.”
“I feel it is going to be a tough encounter and we will face much difficulties in overcoming Sabah with very little attacking options available,” said the coach.
Despite their shortcomings, Kedah have done well to come into tonight's match on the back of four straight wins against Kelantan, Perlis, Terengganu and Pahang.
A major part of their successful run can be attributed to a rock solid defence, which has conceded a measly four goals in 11 matches and is unbeaten for the last 434 minutes of play.
“At present, we are doing much better than expected for a team returning to the top flight after an absence of three years. My wish is for the players to maintain the same level of commitment and hard work in the season's second half as well.”
“However, I am afraid that the current alarming rate of tackles and the high injury statistics in Malaysian football could play a major part in deciding the team's fate this year.”