KOTA KINABALU: Gary Phillips has more or less his first eleven in mind but is still tinkering on how to approach the game as they are on the hunt for their third Premier League victory on the road by taking on Melaka at the Hang Tuah Stadium tonight.
The Sabah coach cum manager knows how crucial the tie can be as he is fully aware that a victory over their lowly opponent will propel them to third place in the 12-team standings.
However, all will depend on the outcome of other matches involving Police vs Armed Forces and KL Felda United FC vs Harimau Muda.
Sabah will be going into the game on 13 points and fifth in the standings, two points and a point behind third and fourth placed Armed Forces and Harimau Muda respectively.
The coach knows that this is a match where they cannot afford any slip-ups as sixth placed Police are lurking just behind them by a mere point.
But Gary believes that with the right attitude and the right mentality, they can come home with three points in the bag.
For the record, KL Felda United is leading the pack with 22 points followed by Selangor PKNS on 19 points.
Gary has hinted of making slight changes to his winning side that blanked Penang USM FC 2-0 on Friday and insists he needs to bring fresh legs to Melaka.
“I’m still fine-tuning, I have got my first 11 in mind, but in what shape we are going to play is a thing to consider just yet.
“With no proper recovery due to the fact that we played two matches in the space of four days … you just can’t expect players to be in the best of shape.
“We played on Friday (against USM) and on Saturday we had a light training. We are travelling on Sunday and play on Monday. So, obviously I can’t expect Zainizam Marjan to play the whole 90 minutes, and I think Mohd Farid (Ideris) will struggle as well.
But Gary did hint that he will be switching back to their original 4-4-2 system from 3-5-2 which they deployed against USM FC.
“I’m going to start with Alto (Linus) and Shahrul (Azhar Ture). I rested them (against USM) just because I want them to be fresh against Melaka.
He also said that he is likely to stick to Mohd Farid Ideris to lead Sabah’s attack while both Zainizam and Razlan Oto, who both featured in the Friday’s victory, will be on the bench along side Bobby Gonzales.
Gary will not have his skipper Md Reithauddin Ag Embran for the clash as the latter picked his third yellow card of the season, and will be serving a one match suspension.
It’s only a minor setback as Gary still have in-depth strength in his backline with Mafry Balang in his right back role, Rosdin Wasli and Gasili Pengalot, who did relatively well against USM FC, will be at the centre back while Julamri Muhammad in right back.
Alto will play at the left of midfield and Shahrul on the right while the young Sabri Sahar and Mohd Radzi Hussin will be retained at the heart of the midfield.
Mohd Farid Saibun is likely to start ahead of Zainizam, playing in front of the two centre midfielders with Mohd Farid Ideris the lone striker.
SABAH’S FIRST 16 SQUAD: Azizon Kadir, Mohd Salawi Jasad, Rosdin Wasli, Mafry Balang, Gasili Pengalot, Julamri Muhammad, Sabri Sahar, Radzi Mohd Hussin, Alto Linus, Shahrul Azhar Ture, Mohd Farid Saibun, Mohd Farid Ideris, Zainizam Marjan, Bobby Gonzales, Razlan Oto, Madzalan Emoi