Malaysian champion Johor Darul Ta’zim FC (JDT) is turning their focus to the AFC Champions League (ACL) as the squad departed for Thailand to commence their journey in Group G.
All matches involving Group G will be played at the Bangkok Rajamangala Stadium, home of the Thailand national team, from June 22 until July 7.
Half of the JDT players were flying from Johor to join the remaining squad in Bangkok on June 18. The remaining players were part of the Malaysian national team who were laid off in the Thai capital en route from Dubai after the completion of the Asian Qualifiers.
All JDT players now are going into the sports bubble under strict standard operating procedures and protocols stipulated by the Asian Football Confederation.
In their third consecutive year’s participation, JDT is expected to harness their squad’s current qualities and strength, with plus experience to challenge its opponents, namely Korea’s Pohang Steelers, Japan’s Nagoya Grampus and Thailand’s Ratchaburi Mitr Pol.
Finishing third in last season’s J-League, Nagoya Grampus secured their place in the group stage, while both Pohang Steelers and Ratchaburi Mitr Pohl automatically qualified subsequently due to the ineligibility of the now-defunct Chinese club Jiangsu FC.
JDT themselves have certain ACL records that can rally their campaign further this season. A feat for the Southeast Asian club, the Southern Tigers have won their ACL matches in two consecutive seasons against Japanese giants Kashima Antlers in 2019, and Korean side Suwon Bluewings in 2020. These victories greatly motivated the team to do the same for this season.
The seven-time Malaysian Super League winners make ACL their topmost priority in shaping the club’s reputation, strength and marketability. Club owner HRH Tunku Ismail, the Crown Prince of Johor believes that facing Asia’s great clubs would further solidify the club with competitive matches and professionalism.
The club’s Asian conquest reached its zenith in 2015 as it won the AFC Cup. With the victory, JDT never looked back and they have become a name to be reckoned with in the ACL’s group stage fixtures as among the contenders.
THE BRUNEIAN | KUALA LUMPUR