Which team will finish bridesmaids to JDT in the new M-League season?

KUALA LUMPUR: With just 90 days remaining before the start of the new M-League season, the burning question on everyone's mind is: Who will finish runners-up?

Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) has clinched the Super League title for the past decade, achieving the status of double quadruple winners in 2022 and 2023, indicating that other teams will be fighting for second spots in the league, FA Cup, Malaysia Cup and Charity Shield.

The Southern Tigers' dominance in the M-League is evident in their remarkable climb of 66 spots in the world club rankings.

JDT currently hold the No. 319 position, a substantial leap from No. 385 in December 2023.

They now rank higher than English Football League One's Bolton Wanderers (No. 353), EFL Championship's Cardiff City (No. 355), Bundesliga 2's Schalke 04 (No. 378), La Liga 2's Malaga CF (No. 383), and Major League Soccer's LA Galaxy (No. 487).

In Asia, JDT are ranked 15th, with the top five occupied by Al Hilal, Al Nassr, Kawasaki Frontale, Vissel Kobe and Al Ittihad.

Football observer Zakaria Rahim believes there are currently no formidable competitors for JDT, who want to achieve breakthroughs in the Asian Champions League Elite (ACLE), domestically.

While acknowledging that Selangor are JDT's closest rivals, Zakaria stressed that the Red Giants have a considerable distance to cover.

"JDT have improved compared to last season. If their goal is Asia, then dominating the domestic league should be easy for them.

"We can see that their closest opponents are Selangor. However, surpassing JDT will be tough for the Red Giants.

"This implies that Malaysia's ACLE quota will likely be monopolised by JDT."

JDT have three highest-paid players in the M-League, according to — Jalil Elias (RM15million), Geraldes (RM12.8m) and Jordi Amat (RM4m).

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