BREATHING FIRE: Amateurs out to do themselves proud
THERE is no bigger mismatch than Kelantan taking on little Public Service Commission (SPA) in the FA Cup quarter-finals today but the Super League champions will do well not to take victory for granted against the amateur team.
On paper, everything points to a comfortable win for Kelantan in the first leg at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil, where they will be expected to build a sizable advantage to take home for the return leg in Kota Baru on Tuesday.
But SPA, the first FAM League club to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals, do not intend to become Kelantan's punching bag and will be doing their utmost to ruffle the feathers of their illustrious opponents in the biggest match of the club's brief history.
"We don't really have any special plans for Kelantan, we will treat them just like we do any other team," said SPA coach Nidzam Jamil yesterday.
"We are playing at home and we hope to use that advantage to our benefit. The players are very excited to get the chance to play against Kelantan and our only concern is to play a good game."
Incredibly, SPA have the better run of form after winning all five of their official matches this season -- the first two rounds of the FA Cup and three in the FAM League -- while Kelantan are coming off a demoralising 3-1 defeat in the AFC Cup to Ayeyawady United in Yangon.
SPA could expect a backlash from Kelantan, who have won their last four matches in domestic action.
"I prefer not to talk about Kelantan because they are a professional team and even if they changed their entire first XI, the replacements would be just as good. They are able to cope with any kind of difficulty whereas for us, making the FA Cup quarter-finals is already the highlight of the season.
"Some people ask if we are under pressure against Kelantan but why should we be? If we were a big-spending club and got knocked out early by a smaller team, then yes.
"But we are an amateur team and making it this far is already an achievement."
Nidzam has a fit squad of 25 players to choose from but Kelantan coach Bojan Hodak will be without defender Azizi Matt Rose and S. Subramaniam and striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha.
Hodak may choose to field some fringe players and give other regulars a break while the likes of Indra Putra Mahayuddin and Norfarhan Muhammad, who started the AFC Cup game on the bench, may maintain his position.