Southeast Asia Malaysia

Bali United and PSM Gear Up for Malaysian Challenge

Indonesian duo Bali United and PSM Makassar will embark on a continental adventure starting from this Friday, as the two take part in the 2022 AFC Cup group stages. The two Liga 1 Indonesia sides will take on Malaysian opposition in their first matches of the group stage, with Bali United taking on Kedah Darul Aman in Group G, while PSM will face-off against Kuala Lumpur City and former head coach Bojan Hodak in Group H.

Both Bali United and PSM had mixed results from their recent matches in the 2022 Piala Presiden. Bali United were agonizingly eliminated from the competition after finishing third in Group C behind Persib Bandung and Bhayangkara FC, with the Serdadu Tridatu being knocked out by virtue of an inferior head-to-head record with the Guardian.

PSM, on the other hand, were through to the knockouts as Group D runners-up behind group winners Arema, with the Juku Eja benefitting from a better disciplinary record over the group’s third-placed team Persik Kediri.

Despite their early elimination from the Piala Presiden, Bali United head coach Stefano Cugurra Teco was delighted by the fact that he was able to rotate his squad thoroughly in the Serdadu Tridatu‘s three group stage matches. The Piala Presiden was never Bali United’s priority and the club saw the pre-season tournament as a chance to allow their players to reach match fitness before the AFC Cup group stages rolls around.

This was most evident in Bali United’s final group stage game against Persebaya Surabaya on June 20th, where Teco decided to bench most of his heavy hitters – the likes of Jean Befolo Mbarga, new goalkeeper Muhammad Ridho, new signings Ramdani Lestaluhu, Novri Setiawan, and Hendra Bayauw, as well as veteran attacker M. Rahmat to name a few. Other key players such as Willian Pacheco, Brwa Nouri, Ilija Spasojevic and captain Fadil Sausu weren’t even featured at all in the Persebaya match, as Teco had rested them for Friday’s showdown with Kedah.

Kedah themselves have also done their homework for Friday’s match. They’ve brought in True Bangkok United’s Sanrawat Dechmitr on loan as well as Jordan international Mahmoud Al-Mardi to reinforce the squad in the buildup towards the Canaries’ continental outing. Mahmoud, who had played for Jordan in the recently-concluded AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, will renew hostilities with Bali United’s Indonesia duo Irfan Jaya and Nadeo Argawinata, with the trio having participated in Jordan’s 1-0 win over Indonesia in the qualifiers.

As for PSM, Bernardo Tavares’ men traveled to Kuala Lumpur as huge underdogs, with the Portuguese head coach stating that Group H rivals Kuala Lumpur and Singapore’s Tampines Rovers had ten times the budget that the Juku Eja had. However, their qualification to the Piala Presiden knockouts would add more confidence to the PSM players, and they will be taking advantage of that underdog tag to go all-out despite playing deep within enemy territory.

In a pre-match press conference, Tavares voiced his determination to help PSM make Indonesia proud by doing well in this year’s AFC Cup. Despite not being the favorites, Tavares is confident that his PSM side would shock Kuala Lumpur and prove that Indonesian football can go toe-to-toe with those of their regional rivals.