JOHOR BAHRU: Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) coach Raul Longhi is of the opinion that the AFC Cup Asean Zone Group H match against Tampines Rovers at Larkin Stadium tomorrow night (Wednesday) will be anything but easy.
Longhi, who took over the coaching reigns from 58-year-old Portuguese Ulisses Morais who resigned on February 25, knows that the Singaporean club have their strengths and can prevent the Southern Tigers from achieving a win at home.
He said that he was pleased with the team’s performance in the first round, even though they only managed one win when they beat Indonesian side Persija Bandung 3-0 at home. In the other two matches, they lost 2-0 to Vietnamese side Song Lam Nghe An FC and were held to a draw by Tampines at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore.
"We will weather the challenge of the second round. For sure we will be sharper as we are bent on winning especially when playing at home and such an opportunity should not be wasted.
"We respect Tampines as they are Singapore’s best team and they have a different style of play.
"What is important for our squad, be it local or import players, is that they play at 100 per cent and perform to the best of their abilities out there on the field against Tampines as in the previous match against them we should have won but luck was not on our side,” he said.
Longhi also confirmed that Luciano Figueroa will not be fielded for the match as he has not recovered from injury and it will most likely be a local forwardline that will feature for the Southern Tigers.
Apart from this, Brazilian defensive stalwart Marcos Antonio is also doubtful and any decision on whether to play him on not will depend on their final training session.
"Whether it will be an all local line up is not a problem for us as I am satisfied with the sheer commitment of the players, as during the previous match against Tampines at the Jalan Besar Stadium, the players showed determination and managed to put pressure on the opposition’s defense.
"For tomorrow’s (Wednesday) match against Tampines, I want the players to be absolutely focused on their task at hand, because victory will put us on the right track for a place in the next round,” stressed Longhi.