It is definitely a bad timing for the meeting as the Rhinos are still struggling to find their footing so far this season after registering only one win in four matches including the home 2-5 loss to ATM in their last match.
Despite the 1-0 win over UKM in the FA Cup tie on Tuesday, the performance of the Sabah players still left a lot to be desired and they need to improve rapidly if they wish to get a good result against the wounded Tigers who were eliminated from the FA Cup by Pahang on Tuesday following their unexpected 3-5 loss by newly-promoted MISC-MIFA in the Premier League last week.
Moreover, the task is further hampered with the absence of French striker Jonathan Behe and first choice midfielder Azizan Nordin who are both out injured.
Fortunately top scorer Maxsius Musa is back after being given a rest in the UKM match and he is most likely to take over Jonathan's place to lead the attack with Sofiane Choubani as support.
In midfield, Japanese Masaya Jitozono is set to partner Sabri Sahar with Umsreng Bacok and either Alto Linus or Leopold Alfonso will operate from the flanks.
Skipper Igor Cerina will be in his usual central defensive role with Rawilson Batuil while Randy Baruh, Saliun Mastar, Jenius Karib are among the candidates to fill in the left and right back positions.
Under-fire goalkeeper Rozaimie Rohmi is also back with the team but he may only start from the bench as the coaches may opt to give number two Robson Rendy another chance after his fine display against UKM in Rozaimie's absence.
19 players left for Johor on Thursday including President Cup youngsters Hamran Peter, O' Neil Shanahan Marcellinus Bungkilan and Muhd Zaki Sapri.
Sabah who are currently third from bottom will next play MISC-MIFA in another away game on February 24. - GL Oh