Thailand prepare to host Malaysia for the second leg of the 2018 AFF Cup semi-finals. Here are the thoughts of our writers in anticipation of what should be a fantastic match:
Obb Deewajin (Football Tribe Thailand):
The second leg of a semi-final tie is already a big occasion on itself but for Thailand, Wednesday's game have much more meaning. The squad have been rallying for home support, but a poor performance at the Bukit Jalil National last Saturday means the players really have to up their standards. Star midfielders Sanrawat Dechmitr and Thitipan Puangchan are confident of the win and has declared the team will head approach this game with attacking intent.
Last time out, Malaysia looked very lively in attack and would put themselves in a fantastic position if they were to score first. Norshahrul Idlan shines in this second striker role, dropping deep the linkup play, moving off target man Zaquan Adha. Wingers Safawi Rasid and Mohamadou Sumareh are also a constant threat down both flanks, and Thailand will have to do their best to either mark them tightly or cut their supply lines.
It will definitely be a tough match for both sides, and the home crowd will surely play their part. Thailand has the habit of starting slowly, allowing the opposition to dictate the tempo. Rajevac must make sure the players have learned from their past mistakes. They need to focus from the first whistle if they want to get the win. This is a wonderful Malaysian side but I believe Thailand has enough quality to get the job done and reach the final.
Aiman Nazirmuddin (Football Tribe Malaysia):
Malaysia’s failure to score any goals last saturday may make their trip to Bangkok an even more difficult mission. The advantage is now with the Thai team, as they will be playing in front of their own supporters.
Thailand failed to play well at Bukit Jalil National Stadium, but will definitely improve their weaknesses and present a strong challenge. Malaysia’s aim, then, should be to find an early goal.
Tan Cheng Hoe is likely to retain his attacking line, with Norshahrul Idlan Talaha as its leader. He will be assisted by two wingers who play brilliantly, Mohamadou Sumareh and Safawi Rasid. Meanwhile, the midfield will be driven by Syamer Kutty and Akram Mahinan.
Harimau Malaya only need a 1-1 draw in Bangkok to confirm the place to the final, and are out to destroy the dream of the defending champions.
Gian Chansrichawla (Football Tribe SEA Editor):
A particularly interesting development in the build-up to this game has been the Thai players and their demands that coach Milovan Rajevac play a more attacking style in this game. It is hard for fans to achieve consensus on the Serbian boss's style - he is beloved when it works but berated when it fails.
Rajevac claimed that Malaysia's attacking intent, and the fact that they "gave 120%" in the first leg, forced his hand in terms of adopting a defensive system. However, his decision to start Mika Chunounsee instead of Philip Roller is interesting, as it indicates that Thailand went into the game anticipating that they might need to defend.
In the eyes of the fans, the respect Thailand showed to Malaysia in the first leg should be reversed now that the sides are playing in Bangkok. Fans will be expecting the War Elephants to take the game to the opposition - and Rajevac's selection of fullback could once again indicate whether or not he intends to respond to the fan's wishes. It's a tough position, and the Serbian mastermind will have to rely on his years of experience at the upper echelons of the international game to manoeuvre a way out of this one. Personally, I greatly trust and admire the War Elephant's boss, and am eager to see how he responds to this test.