MALAYSIA will open the Asian Champions Trophy (ACT) accounts against Pakistan in Kuantan Thursday, and nothing but a win is expected from coach Stephen van Huizen's men.
For, Malaysia will field their strongest penalty corner battery of six players, as well as having a better squad than the one which finished which sixth in the recent Australian Hockey League.
And Pakistan will be playing without their skipper Mohamed Irfan, who never arrived in Kuantan due to visa problems back home.
Van Huizen said as both the teams will be trying to claw back into world hockey, it will be a tough encounter.
"Both Pakistan and Malaysia missed out of the Rio Olympics and are trying to climb back into the world hockey ladder and so I expect a tough match from the ACT defending champions," said van Huizen.
The six penalty corner flickers for Malaysia are Shahril Saabah, Fitri Shaari, Firhan Ashaari, Razie Rahim, Faizal Shaari and Najmi Farizal.
"Our penalty corner choises are the strongest ever as I have five other players to select from other than our No 1 Razie.
"This will be our mainstay in the tournament, where we aim to qualify for the semi-finals first and then take one game at a time."
In the last encounter at the Azlan Shah Cup, Malaysia edged Pakistan 1-0 with the winner coming from Razie's direct flick.
However, in the ACT, Malaysia have yet to beat Pakistan in the three encounters. They lost 3-2 in 2011, drew 2-2 in 2012 and lost 1-0 in 2013 when the tournament was last held.
Pakistan manager Hanif Khan said the absence of Irfan will be felt, but they have Plan B.
"Our captain Irfan could not make it here due to viss problems and so we will be bringing in another player soon. It will be tougher for us now, but we have a Plan B to counter his absence," said Hanif.
Pakistan won the last two editions and are gunning for a hat-trick.
"We came here on a hat-trick mission, and winning the first match will be utmost in our minds to kick-start that ambition," said Hanif.
The other teams in the ACt are India, South Korea, China and Japan.
THURSDAY: Malaysia v Pakistan (6.30pm), India v Japan (8.30pm).
FRIDAY: Pakistan v South Korea (6.30pm), Malaysia v China (8.30pm).