Perak want to 'do a Leicester' by stunning JDT in 2018 MSL
Perak have been backed to take inspiration from Leicester City by pulling off a stunning upset to lift the Malaysia Super League (MSL) title in 2018.
Leicester shocked the football world in 2016 as they became Premier League champions, having ended the previous campaign down in 14th spot.
And Perak's First Minister Datuk Seri Zambry Abd Kadir believes the Bos Gaurus can become MSL champions this year, ending Johor Darul Ta'zim's (JDT) four-year reign.
"When Leicester won the English Premier League back in 2015, they weren't a title contender, yet they beat all the odds to be crowned as the champions," Zambry said, as reported in The Malay Mail.
"Perak could do the same if we show the same fighting spirit, determination to win, discipline and never give up attitude."
It would certainly be one of the most surprising achievements in Malaysian football history if Perak were to rise from the fifth-place of 2017 to top spot this year. Last year's runners-up Pahang are expected to mount the biggest challenge to JDT again.
Perak have added a number of experienced players to their squad, including former Socceroos defender Robert Cornthwaite, Philippines international striker Misagh Bahadoran and Australia-born Malaysia midfielder Brendan Gan.
But JDT are still hot favourites to continue their dominance of Malaysian football. Last week's defeat to Muang Thong United in the AFC Champions League (ACL) Second Preliminary Round only served to make them more determined than ever to retain their crown, with this year's MSL winners progressing directly to the group stage of the 2019 ACL.
After the Muang Thong game, JDT skipper Safiq Rahim insisted that the club would be fully focused on winning the MSL title this year in order to achieve their dream of participation in the ACL.
However, this hasn't stopped Zambry from suggesting that Perak can not only lift the title, but also add a cup to the trophy cabinet.
Perak have retained ex-Australia and Selangor defender Mehmet Durakovic as coach. In 2015, he became the first foreigner to win the Malaysia Cup as coach and player after guiding Selangor against Kedah to a record 33rd crown at Shah Alam Stadium.
"I have watched a few preseason friendlies and all the players, including the foreigners, locals and youths had shown a quality performance," Zambry said.
"With the potential shown by the players, I believe we could not only target to win one trophy, but two."
Perak begin their MSL campaign with a trip to Pahang on Feb. 4, providing an early test of the likelihood that they can indeed become the new Leicester.
Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK