CLASSY: Malaysia will be hard-pressed despite visitors arriving without many of their stars
MANCHESTER City will offer a far bigger challenge to the national team at the National Stadium today than that which Malaysia faced against Arsenal last week.
Granted City have left many of their star names behind but they will still be a formidable force with the likes of past Olympic champions Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Pablo Zabaleta in their ranks.
Indeed, national coach K. Rajagobal will be hard-pressed to come up with ideas for his defenders to cope with the expected onslaught from the English Premier League champions on their first visit to Malaysia.
When asked what he would be telling his back four, he said: "What can I tell them when even Arsenal could not stop them from scoring (in a friendly on Friday)?
"Yes, they did well against Arsenal (in a 2-1 defeat) but we have to bear in mind this is a world-class team we are going to play against.
"But we will definitely do our best in trying to do something."
Rajagobal has concerns over centreback Aidil Zafuan Radzak and leftback Azmi Muslim, who scored a wonder goal against Arsenal, after both picked up knocks in that game.
It was only after Rajagobal began making substitutions did Arsenal get back into the game and score two late goals but their defending before that gives the national coach hope that City could be kept at bay too.
The lack of cover for Azmi though could hurt Malaysia's chances with regular leftback Asraruddin Putra Omar not available through injury.
"I will have to see how they respond in training. I don't have anyone else who can play at leftback with both Asraruddin and Zubir (Azmi) not available.
"But there are some players who could fit in there," added Rajagobal who is toying with the idea of deploying winger S. Kunanlan in that position.
City manager Roberto Mancini is looking for a good workout against Malaysia as they look to build on their victory over Arsenal in Beijing, where the Italian experimented with a three-man backline.
"For an elite team, it should be possible to make changes during the season without problems," he said on arrival in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
Malaysian fans of City will be disappointed with the host of key players who will not take to the pitch after being left out of the travelling party for various reasons.
Italian striker Mario Balotelli, England international Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott, James Milner, Gareth Barry and Micah Richards, Frenchmen Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy, Spain forward David Silva and Dutchman Nigel De Jong were all given leave after playing in Euro 2012 or are playing in the on-going London Olympics.
Nonetheless, Mancini feels the Malaysia game is a crucial part of pre-season preparation to defend their Premier League title despite failing to make additions to his squad.
"If we start to think that we are now on top after winning one championship, that is a big mistake.
"It is important we work hard and we need to improve to stay at the top for a long time.
"To defend the championship, we need to play and also do better in the Champions League, which is a strange tournament where not the best team can win," added Mancini.