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 By Nicolas Anil

Kedah bank on new strike combo Smeltz and Thiago against JDT in MSL

Kedah head coach Tan Cheng Hoe is excited by the prospect of Thiago Fernandes and Shane Smeltz striking the right chord to change his side's goal scoring fortunes, starting with the Malaysia Super League (MSL) clash against Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) on Saturday night.

Brazilian Fernandes, on loan from Felda United, made a golden debut with two assist, before scoring the winning goal in the 4-3 Malaysia Cup victory over Sarawak on Wednesday.

New Zealand international Smeltz, who famously scored against Italy in the 2010 World Cup, also made a second half debut to get his first taste of Malaysian football action.

Kedah will be the 34-year-old's first stint in Southeast Asia, having arrived from Sydney FC where he scored 12 times in 43 appearances.

"Thiago is a proven striker with a lot pace and power. He has struggled with injury before, but I'm sure we'll get the best from him. Shane is also experienced, having played in the World Cup and scored a lot of goals in the A-League," Cheng Hoe told ESPN FC.

"He probably needs some time to adjust to the Malaysian weather, but he is a scoring machine and we can expect goals."

The duo's arrival comes at a crucial time for Kedah, who have found the net only 14 times in the MSL, second lowest behind PDRM FA.

Cheng Hoe, whose side held JDT to a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture in April, wants his players to go out and enjoy the occasion at the Larkin Stadium.

Kedah striker Thiago Augusto Fernandes
Thiago Fernandes joined Kedah during the mid-season transfer window.

"The pressure is on JDT, not us. We will play without fear and take our opportunities. My players are motivated for this game, I don't need to inspire them, but it is important they play with confidence," said Cheng Hoe.

League leaders JDT have been hogging the headlines following the international retirements of Safiq Rahim, Aidil Zafuan, Amirulhadi Zainal and S. Kunanlan this week.

The foursome, who have 241 international caps between them, decided to hang up their boots after reported;u growing disillusioned with the national setup.

The Southern Tigers are, however, bolstered with the signing of right-back Azrif Nasrulhaq, who made the long awaited switch from Selangor on Thursday.

The 25-year-old, who had made his intentions to join the MSL champions public, is set to jostle for the fullback slot with Kunanlan.

Other MSL matches will see Selangor host PDRM, while second placed Felda United welcome the visit of Perak.

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

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