Super League champions, Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) are targeting a strong finish in the AFC Cup next season which could be their last run in the tournament. (Pix by MOHD AZREN JAMALUDIN)

KUALA LUMPUR: Super League champions, Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) are targeting a strong finish in the AFC Cup next season which could be their last run in the tournament.

This is because the Malaysian club will feature automatically in the Asia Champions League (ACL) for the 2019 season and no longer have to take part in the AFC Cup.

Therefore, Ulisses Morais charges are determined to maintain their excellent reputation and record in the Asian continent’s second highest tournament, which they won against all odds in 2015.

Drawn in group H together with three other teams, Persija Jakarta (Indonesia), Song Lam Nghe An (Vietnam) and Tampines Rovers or Geylang International (Singapore), Johor Darul Ta’zim are not expected to face much problems in getting through the group stage for the fourth consecutive season.

Johor Darul Ta’zim assistant coach, Ismail Ibrahim however has warned the players that they should not take things lightly for the group stage, especially against two new teams they have never faced before in Persija Jakarta and Song Lam Nghe Han.

“For the group stage, I have to stress that the matches will be anything but easy because all the other teams in the group have high hopes and will also be playing to advance to the next stage.

“We will be playing Persija Jakarta and Song Lam Nghe Han for the very first time, so we need to be as best prepared as possible because we do not know much about these two teams as compared to Tampines Rovers who we have faced in the group stage before.

“With next year’s campaign being our last in the AFC Cup after Malaysia gained one automatic slot for the ACL come the 2019 season, of course we want to give it our very best.

“In fact, based on the meticulous preparations we are carrying out, we are very optimistic in achieving positive results,” he said after the 2018 AFC Cup ballot ceremony held at the AFC House in Bukit Jalil earlier today.

However, Johor Darul Ta’zim could still feature in next season’s ACL, though they will need to get past the early stage where they will have to face Muangthong United of Thailand and if they win, then they will get a slot to the play-off round against a Japanese club, with victory providing the opportunity to compete in Asia’s premier football competition.

If Johor Darul Ta’zim make it to the ACL, then their place in the group stage of the AFC Cup will go to 33 time Malaysia Cup winners Selangor.

Keywords: Johor Darul Ta’zim, JDT, Malaysia, Malaysian Football, Soccer, Ulisses Morais, Ismail Ibrahim, Johor Southern Tigers, Asian Champions League, ACL, AFC Cup, Asian Football Confederation, Group Stage.

381 reads