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MSL 2020 season preview: JDT expected to continue winning run at new ground

The new 2020 season doesn’t look to be any different as Johor Darul Ta’zim remained red hot favourites even after six successive Super League titles.

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. We start right at the top and it’s the reigning champions, Johor Darul Ta’zim.

How they fare in 2019

Out of the 22 rounds of matches in the 2019 season, there were only five rounds where they did not occupy the top position of the Super League table, as they steamrolled to yet another league success with a 10 points margin over closest challenger, Pahang.

They came close to matching their 2017 season of finishing unbeaten in the league, but a penultimate weekend defeat to PJ City FC became the only blot in their book. It was another runaway success for The Southern Tigers who were the side with the best attacking and defensive record in the division.

New signing Diogo Luis Santo, brought in from Thai side Buriram United was oustanding in his debut season. Together with Gonzalo Cabrera and a maturing Safawi Rasid, they scored a combined total of 31 goals. That represented 63% of the 49 goals that JDT throughout the season.

What’s new in the squad

The management was very happy with how the squad performed in 2019 and made minimal changes to the team. All five import players in Hariss Harun, Diogo, Cabrera, Mauricio dos Santos and Leandro Velazquez were retained, as was the rest of the first team players.

Liridon Krasiniqi was the first player brought into the team, now with a Malaysian passport with enables him to feature in the season as a local player. The former Kedah and Melaka midfielder will certainly add to the creative options that JDT have available to them.

Meanwhile Matthew Davies was brought in to beef up the defence, who had struggled against Japanese Emperor Cup champions Vissel Kobe in the AFC Champions League (ACL) with S. Kunanlan looking particularly vulnerable. The former Pahang captain is expected to slot seamlessly in JDT’s defence having already played alongside his new team mates at the national team.

Who are the key players

Last season saw the burgeoning talent of Safawi coming to the fore, operating from the right side of JDT’s attack, he more than chipped in with his fair share of goals to the extent that he is being keenly looked at by foreign clubs. Still to turn only 23 this year, the left footer can only get better and it will be interesting to see his continued development.

Hariss Harun had a stellar 2019 season and more of the same is expected from the captain in this coming new season. The Singaporean is the only true defensive midfielder in the team and there’s a big difference when JDT have him on the pitch. His protection in front of the defence give the attackers the freedom to express themselves further up the pitch.

Where will they finish in 2020

While they may struggle a little in the ACL, the Super League still looks like a piece of cake for JDT. Without doubt they have the best squad in the country where even if they world class medical facilities could not get their preferred first choice back in time, they still have plenty of firepower from the bench to choose from.

Despite all that is said about them and they squad, their desire to continually be the best and to be the numero uno in the league to get into the ACL group stages cannot be understated. Champions since 2014, there’s very little to suggest that history would not repeat itself in 2020. First place in the league is a matter of when, rather than if.

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