More than pride at stake in Kuala Lumpur-Selangor derby
Today's Klang Valley derby promises to be no ordinary encounter as Selangor and Kuala Lumpur put it all on the line when they meet in a pivotal Malaysia Cup Group D clash at Shah Alam Stadium.
The derby, which used to captivate fans inside and outside of the city's borders, has lost some of its lustre in recent years but there is nothing like a Malaysia Cup survival contest to recapture the romance of years gone by.
Selangor and KL will be in the spotlight today along with Kedah and Sabah in Group A as only two more spots remain to be decided for the quarter-finals.
Perak have already won Group A, Kuala Terengganu T-Team need just a draw against Police in Paroi to top Group D, while Terengganu and Negri Sembilan and Kelantan and Felda United go head-to-head to decide positions in Groups B and C.
That leaves Selangor and KL, who drew 0-0 in Selayang on Sept 13, as the only teams in direct confrontation for a last eight berth with Razip Ismail's city side in the unusual position of leading Selangor by two points.
A draw would be enough for KL to go through while only a win would suffice for Selangor, who have had to deal with the shock of K. Devan's resignation during the tournament.
Selangor caretaker coach P. Maniam guided his side to a morale-boosting 4-1 win over Police on Saturday and will be looking to salvage their season by preserving their seven-match unbeaten run in the derby.
"It will be no ordinary derby, that is for sure," said Razip, whose side remain unbeaten in their last six matches.
"There is no older and younger brother situation here. If we remain unbeaten after tomorrow's (today's) match, then we are through.
"But to play for a draw is a dangerous thing especially since Selangor will be attacking all out. But they can't attack all the time and we must look to exploit the opportunities, going forward.
"We will employ a balanced game, attacking and defending in equal measure and I believe we can hold them off."
KL have been boosted by the availability of talented forward Ahmad Hazwan Bakri, who missed six matches due to suspension and national Olympic duty and marked his return by scoring the equaliser against T-Team on Saturday less than a minute after coming on at half-time.
"Having Hazwan around is a great boost as he gives our attack more bite. He saved the game for us against T-Team and I'll be fielding him from the start," said Razip, who will rely on Hazwan, Yong Kuong Yong and Badrul Hisyam Azmi to break Selangor's defensive line.
Unfortunately for KL, they have history against them, having won just once in 18 visits to Shah Alam and that, too, 11 years ago in an FA Cup tie nor is their record against Selangor in the Malaysia Cup any better, winning just two of 13 matches.
KL did hold Selangor 1-1 in Shah Alam in the Super League this season and a repeat of this score line would be enough to end Selangor's "Mission 33".