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 By Nicolas Anil

Malaysia striker Shahrel hopes early arrival pays off in Asian Cup qualifier

Striker Shahrel Fikri says Malaysia must take full advantage of their early arrival in Hong Kong for their 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

The Malaysians had only two training sessions at Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) headquarters before departing to the former British colony last Wednesday.

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This ideally gives them four full days of full training and ample time to acclimatise to the drier climate.

"We arrived early in Hong Kong, which is ideal for us because we can adapt to the conditions there," Shahrel told ESPN FC.

"It is important that we stay sharp in that period, which will give us the right momentum to take to match day."

Shahrel wants to replicate his club form this season onto the national stage.

Already on 20 goals for second-tier PKNP FC this year, the young forward could be Malaysia's lethal weapon in unlocking the Hong Kong defence.

Myanmar 🛬🇲🇲

A post shared by •Learn To Lead• (@shahrel.fikri) on

"I have been in good form for PKNP, and the challenge would be to do well and score in a competitive international match, if I am chosen. Hong Kong seem to be a balanced team, but they can be breached and we must find a way to do so," Shahrel said.

The 22-year-old is in line for only his second national appearance after making his debut in the 2-1 friendly defeat to Syria in August.

Nelo Vingada could start with Shahrel after Ahmad Hazwan Bakri was left out of the 24-man squad to a groin injury, which left Darren Lok, of Johor Darul Ta'zim, as the only specialist striker.

Malaysia are struggling for goals, having only netted three times throughout 2017.

The Portuguese head coach is also under some pressure to deliver his first win for Malaysia since taking charge in May.

Vingada's first match in charge ended in a 2-1 loss to Lebanon in the first qualifying match on June 13 before the 1-1 draw against Hong Kong in an ill-tempered match on Sept. 5.

Those results leave Malaysia bottom of Group B, which is led by Lebanon on seven points.

The Harimau Malaya had also lost to Syria and 1-0 to Myanmar in friendly defeats in August.

Malaysia were supposed to play North Korea on Oct. 5, but the match was rescheduled for a third time after local authorities issued a travel ban to the Republic.

Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Goal.com Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.

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