Despite sitting out Persib Bandung’s first win of the Indonesia Liga One season on Saturday, big-name stars Michael Essien and Carlton Cole are not guaranteed to start in Wednesday’s game at Gresik United.
Persib defeated Sriwijaya 2-0 to move fifth in the table after three games. Another win could, if other results go their way, put the Blues in pole position.
Neither Essien, who was a late, second-half substitute and Cole, who did not come off the bench, have made an explosive start to their Indonesian careers after arriving in March.
According to head coach Djadjang Nurdjaman, the pair may need more time to settle.
“They can’t fully adapt to the weather and are struggling to sleep,” Djadjang revealed in a media conference. “That has an effect on the field and in training.”
The coach has been willing to change the starting side this season. In the absence of the big-name former English Premier League stars, in came the experienced Raphael Maitimo and highly-rated teenager Febri Haryadi, who scored Persib’s second.
“We will take a look at all the players who played and all who didn’t,” said Djadjang.
“We are ready to rotate and to rest players whenever it is necessary.”
With the team flying from West Java to the far east of the island, the starting line-up will be decided at the last moment.
The defeat of Sriwijaya lifted some of the pressure on the coach after Persib had thrown away a two-goal lead away in the final stages of the previous match.
Essien, formerly of Chelsea and Real Madrid, has started one game so far, playing 78 minutes of the opening goalless draw against Arema. The midfielder scored as a second-half substitute in the 2-2 draw at PS TNI and came off the bench for the final 11 minutes against Sriwijaya.
Ex-England international Cole has yet to start a league game or score in his two second-half substitute appearances. Both may get a chance at Gresik. But whatever the line-up, Djadjang has warned against complacency when facing a team who have collected just one point this season, losing their last two games.
“We have to be careful as they will be desperate not to lose for a third game in a row,” he said. “We have to be at our best ”
Going into the midweek action, the top four teams all have seven points with a goal difference of plus-three.
Two of the early pacesetters, Arema and Barito Putera meet on Friday, with Semen Padang and PSM in action on Thursday, with respective away games at Bali United and Perseru Serui.