Pahang FA will be on the hunt for a positive result in their first AFC Cup quarter-final on Wednesday when they face fellow debutants FC Istiklol.
Zainal Abidin Hassan's side are looking to bounce back from the disappointment of missing out on the Malaysian Premier League title over the weekend, with their 3-1 defeat at the hands of Terengganu handing Johor Darul Ta'Zim the silverware
The Pahang mentor admits that morale in the camp is low ahead of the fixture, and that his focus is to come away with at least a point from their trip to Dushanbe.
“The players are down after letting the Super League title slip away,” he told The Star.
“Istiklol are a very good side, so our players must be focused and disciplined throughout the match to stay alive in the competition.
“In matches at this level, a quality side like Istiklol will punish us for our mistakes. So safety comes first.”
Meanwhile, Istiklol will be looking to continue their dream run in the AFC Cup, where they finished atop Group A, ahead of defending champions Qadsia SC, before going on to beat Syrian side Al Wahda 4-2 in a penalty shootout in the round of 16 stage.
However, Istiklol coach Mubin Ergashev knows that Pahang FA will pose a serious threat to his side's chances of advancing to the semi-finals. Despite this, Ergashev has made it clear that his side will go all out in the first leg and entertain their fans in the process.
"There are no easy games at this stage and Wednesday’s game is going to be very difficult match against a tough opponent," he said. "The level of their foreign and local players is very good and it will be a step up from our domestic fixture, especially as we last played in the AFC Cup three months ago.
"Although it is often better to play the first game away from home, we will do us best to achieve victory and I hope many fans come to the stadium to support us; we will play for them."