Dominic Tan to start for JDT in AFC Cup semi vs. Ceres-Negros
Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) will have to make do without central defenders Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak and Fadhli Shas in Wednesday's AFC Cup ASEAN Zone semifinal against Philippines club Ceres Negros at Larkin Stadium.
The Southern Tigers finished runners up behind Global FC in Group F, but made the knockout stages as the best second-placed team.
However, the 2015 champions aren't perturbed by the absence of their centre-backs with a wealth of talent waiting in the wings.
"We have good back-up players like Dominic Tan and Hasbullah Abu Bakar to replace them," JDT manager Ismail Ibrahim told The Star.
"Even midfielder Amirulhadi Zainal can play in defence. These players can form a good partnership with Marcos Antonio.
"Our only issue is the lack of concentration among the boys,that has cost us dearly in a few matches. We have worked on this in training, and I believe we can solve this against Ceres."
JDT, who snapped up Lebanese hit man Mohammad Ghaddar from Kelantan in a record transfer fee this week, have occasionally lapsed in late stages of games.
Most recently, they were held to a 1-1 draw against Melaka United after conceding two minutes from time.
Tan was the defender who failed to keep a tight lid on South Korean midfielder Jeon Woo-young for that equaliser. But Brazilian stalwart Antonio has the utmost faith in the young defender.
"He has shown good character and quality despite his young age. He has worked hard in training because he wants to play in this match. He has learnt a lot and I believe he will prove that he's the future of JDT," Antonio said of his teammate.
This match up promises to be a goal fest between the two highest scoring sides in the competition.
Johor and Ceres have scored 16 goals each in the league, and both teams boasts prolific strikers in their ranks.
JDT's Argentine forward Gabriel Guerra has developed a craft of finding goals from range, and has already accumulated seven in the competition so far.
Ceres' Bienvenido Maranon matches him on the scoring charts, and the nippy winger will prove a handful for Tan and Antonio over the 90 minutes.
The second leg will take place in the Philippines on May 31.
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.