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 By Nicolas Anil

JDT look to get past arch rivals Perak to advance to Malaysia Cup final

Four-time defending league champions Johor Darul Taz'im (JDT) will hope to take an important step towards achieving an unfulfilled dream of winning the Malaysia Cup when they host Perak in their second-leg semifinal on Saturday night.

JDT will have to outwit cup specialist Mehmet Durakovic -- now coach of Perak -- if they're to advance to the Nov. 4 final at Shah Alam Stadium.

Here are three things to look out for this weekend, with champions Kedah hosting Felda United in the other semifinal.

1. Tight security as tensions run high

Two fans were injured at Perak Stadium after the 1-1 draw last Sunday as rival supporters clashed, throwing bottles and firecrackers. This was the latest, ugly episode between the clubs, which dates back to 2015 when 14 arrests were made after unruly behaviour at Larkin Stadium.

JDT midfielder Natxo Insa in 2017 Malaysia Cup
MSL champions JDT drew 1-1 with Perak in last Sunday's first leg in Ipoh.

Last year, Perak had to play three matches behind closed doors as a punishment for inadequate safety.

With both sets of fans having such an animosity towards each other, the onus will fall on security officials to prevent another unsavoury incident.

It is hoped that the fans remain civil at Larkin Stadium to showcase the plethora of talent on show on the pitch.

2. Kedah's uncertain future

Earlier this season, defending champions Kedah showcased swashbuckling football that picked teams apart, under the watchful eye of Tan Cheng Hoe. He helped them become one of the most entertaining and consistent teams in the country.

Khairul Helmi, of Kedah vs. Thiago, of Felda United
Defending champions Kedah picked up an important away goal in last Sunday's 1-1 draw at Felda United.

When he moved on to become assistant national boss, Nidzam Adzha kept the same philosophy to guide the Red Eagles to 2017 Malaysia FA Cup glory in May.

But recent cracks have emerged, with Kedah rumoured to be struggling to pay some of the players' salaries.

While that may not be the reason behind Ken Ilso and Zac Anderson's impending departures, many others big names are also rumoured to be planning their exits.

Booking a third consecutive Malaysia Cup final could prevent this predicament, while attracting more talent for next season. And then, a possible cup double could help Kedah mount a serious challenge in next year's AFC Cup.

Victory over Felda might be a big step towards a brighter future.

3. Satiananthan revives Felda United 

Earlier this year, Felda United found themselves in dire straits when Azmi Mohamed threw in the towel just three matches into his tenure after a poor start to the season.

Felda United coach B. Satianathan
Coach B. Satiananthan has already achieved his first-season targets with Felda United.

His premature departure paved the way for ex-national boss B. Satiananthan to return to management after an unceremonious exit from ATM FA in 2015.

Satia took over a team bereft of confidence and vision. He brought stability and consistency, and targeted a top-four league finish, and a deep Malaysia Cup run.

And he has really delivered. Felda are third in the league, with a game left, and have a great chance of making their first-ever Malaysia Cup final.

As well as strengthening the Fighters' imports in the mid-season transfer window, he nurtured emerging talents like Stuart Wark, Curran Ferns and Wan Zack Haikal.

Taking an unfashionable team to a major final would enhance Satia's reputation as one of the top coaches in the country.

But first, there is the small matter of overcoming the defending champions in front of their own fans.

Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.


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