Junior Eldstal says JDT local defenders ready for Malaysia Cup final

Junior Eldstal is confident that the all-local centre-back pairing of Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) is more than capable of stopping Kedah in the 2017 Malaysia Cup final at Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday.

Ever since Brazil's Marcos Antonio was ruled out due to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in July, Eldstal and either Fadhli Shas or Aidil Zafuan have lined up together in central defence.

The Malaysians stepped up in the absence of ex-Bundesliga defender Antonio, helping JDT to five clean sheets in 11 games.

"In Malaysia, not many teams use local players in defence, but we have done it to good effect in Antonio's absence," Eldstal told Berita Harian.

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"It has not been easy without him, but we did well with a couple of clean sheets. I think that will stand us in good stead against Kedah.

"They are a good side having won the Charity Shield and the FA Cup this year. We must be confident, but not overconfident against them."

Having spent more time in the treatment room than on the field since joining from Sarawak in 2015, Eldstal is determined to help the Southern Tigers capture the elusive trophy.

The English-raised Swedish-Malaysian defender had to battle two major slipped disc injuries that threatened to end his career.

"I went to see a specialist in England and he told me my back injury will not heal anymore," Eldstal said. "I was told to retire in fear that it would get worse. But I love the game and want to continue contributing to JDT and Malaysian football, so I strive.

"Nowadays, the pain still recurs in the last 10-20 minutes of games. But I am seeing a specialist in Singapore."

Eldstal's JDT career has not been without silverware.

He was part of the 2015 AFC Cup-winning team, and was also involved in last year's maiden FA Cup title conquest over PKNS FC.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Cup fever is heating up, with fans from both states camping outside their respective home grounds in the thousands for a chance to secure access to Saturday's final at Shah Alam Stadium. Only 10,000 tickets were sold online for this final, with the other 62,000 tickets divided equally between JDT and Kedah.

They played out to a 0-0 draw in their final league game last Saturday, which served as an unofficial dress rehearsal for the Malaysia Cup decider.