Zainal aims to rebuild Penang spirit ahead of MSL relegation fight

Zainal Abidin Hassan wants his Penang team to forget their pressure-cooker environment and try to enjoy playing football again, starting with Sunday's trip to Felda United in the Malaysia Super League (MSL).

The Penang players were given the day off on Thursday, enjoying a quick getaway at the popular Batu Ferringhi beach on the island.

Zainal, who was appointed on March 24, hopes the team-building exercise will help morale as the bottom-place team begin their fight to escape relegation.

"They are too pressured, and now it is all about getting their confidence back," Zainal told ESPN FC.

"The players are beginning to enjoy training again, and they want to learn and start fighting for places again."

Kesemua pemain pasukan Pulau Pinang yang diberi rehat hari ini dibawa beriadah oleh Ketua Jurulatih, Zainal Abidin Hassan pagi tadi. Pasukan Pulau Pinang akan bertolak ke Jengka, Sabtu ini dan akan menentang Felda United pada Ahad, 9hb April 2017. #HPH #BolaPenang

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The former Selangor coach takes over ex-Bengaluru boss Ashley Westwood, who failed to win a single league game in eight attempts, losing six times.

The Panthers are at the foot of the MSL table with only two points on the board, six points adrift of safety.

As Penang desperately seek a win, Zainal will have to find a way to conjure up a result at Tun Abdul Razak Stadium, despite a lengthy injury list.

"Our current problem is our injuries. Andrew Russell and Reinaldo Lobo are out, and so is Jeffri Firdaus Chew. But S. Kumaahran has just returned, and we are hoping to have his services," Zainal said.

"Every player who is fielded on Sunday will have to work extra hard. Needless to say, we need the points."

Penang's goalkeeper Syed Adney, meanwhile, said Zainal's arrival has transformed the mood the camp.

"He's been good so far, the players look much happier now. Change won't happen overnight, but great that he's taken over," Adney said.

Penang face a Felda team who are on a high after their 3-0 triumph over Philippines' Ceres Negros in the AFC Cup on Tuesday night.

Hadin Azman, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Zah Rahan Krangar were all well worth their pay cheques in that game, and will look for another win at home.

MSL leaders Kedah could, meanwhile, give Tan Cheng Hoe the perfect parting gift against PKNS FC at the Darul Aman Stadium on Saturday.

Tan wants to join the Crown Prince of Johor (TMJ) revolution at the Football Association of Malaysia as assistant coach. He could still be part of the national setup, despite the non-arrival of Mario Gomez.

Defending champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) will look to return to winning ways in their home match against struggling Melaka United on Sunday.

The Southern Tigers have suffered consecutive defeats in the FA Cup and AFC Cup, but will be confident of three points against Eric Williams erratic side.

Other matches will see second-placed Pahang try to keep pace with Kedah with a victory at Kelantan, while Selangor host Sarawak at Selayang Stadium.

Saturday:

Kedah vs. PKNS FC

Kelantan vs. Pahang

Perak vs. T-Team

Selangor vs. Sarawak

Sunday:

Felda United vs. Penang

JDT vs. Melaka United