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MSL 2020 season preview: A year of progress for Terengganu, Nafuzi

Despite Nafuzi Zain’s relative inexperience, the Turtles have entrusted him with the task of leading them as head coach in 2020. Will he succeed?

With the new 2020 Malaysia Super League on the horizon, Goal will be bringing to you the complete guide to all 12 teams in the competition. Going through the changes in the respective squads to see where they could finish come the end of the season. Our next preview is on one of the teams to opt for a relatively inexperienced head coach, Terengganu FC.

How they fared in 2019

Despite reaching the Malaysia Cup final in 2018, the Turtles could not build on the progress in the following year. Three matches into the league, they were still without a win, and when they did win, they could rarely keep the momentum going. The last straw was their home match against Petaling Jaya City in May; despite cruising to a 3-0 lead at the break, in the second half they would concede five goals to lose 5-3 to the minnows, resulting in experienced head coach Irfan Bakti’s resignation. His assistant Nafuzi Zain was quickly appointed as caretaker, and he turned his attention towards restoring his new charges’ confidence, and getting them to play passing football.

They would go on to win only three more league matches, but were only beaten one more time while drawing five matches, to end their league campaign in the safety of the seventh spot.

What’s new in the squad

The club board has hedged their bets on the young Nafuzi, appointing him on a permanent basis for the 2020 season. They parted ways with two foreign signings that have made their names with the team; captain and striker Kipre Tchetche, and midfielder Thierry Bin.

Two foreigners remain; midfielder Lee Tuck and attacker Sanjar Shaakhmedov. Singapore international Faris Ramli too was brought in as their ASEAN quota. New local signings include Darren Lok, Nasir Basharudin, Stuart Wark, Faiz Nasir and D. Saarvindran.

Who are the key players

There is little doubt that team skipper Tuck will deliver on the pitch for the Turtles, and he will lead them from the middle of the park again this season. New signing Faris meanwhile had a decent season when he played for PKNS FC in 2018, but last season was voted as the Singaporean league best player when he played for Huogang United, and surely he is expected to play a more leading role in Terengganu’s attack.

The man expected to play on his opposite flank, Faiz had a disappointing season in his brief sojourn at Selangor last season, but now that he’s back, the diminutive winger should pick up where he left off. Heading into his second season at the club, Shaakhmedov should be able to continue his form from last year. Also worth mentioning is Saarvindran, who shined in the pre-season.

Where will they finish in 2020

Terengganu’s first full season under a young coach such as Nafuzi is unlikely to produce them a trophy, but they should be able to do well enough in the league. As long as they can do better in front of their own fans than they did last season (only four wins in 11 matches), while keeping their faith in Fauzi when the going gets tough, they can be expected to end their Super League campaign in as high as the fourth place.

Also read our season previews on JDTKedah and Selangor.

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