Malaysia open their Commonwealth Games mixed team campaign on Friday with a firm target of wrestling back the gold medal that they conceded to India four years ago in Gold Coast, Australia.
In the 2018 edition, the national contingent boasted a star-studded cast including Lee Chong Wei, Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying and Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong in their prime went down 3-1 in the final.
Chan is the only remaining member of that previous edition as the most senior member of the team this time.
Even without Lee Zii Jia, Malaysia is expected by fans to reach the final and try to reclaim gold which they won for three consecutive editions from 2006 to 2014.
Defending champions India and Singapore are the biggest obstacles in the knockout stages, with the likes of Lakshya Sen, K.Srikanth, P. V. Sindhu and world champion Loh Kean Yew all in attendance in Birmingham.
Malaysia should not have issues to get past their opponents in the group stage.
They face Zambia in their opening match on Friday, before taking on Jamaica several hours later and completing the group against South Africa on Saturday.
The team event consists of five matches from each discipline – men’s and women’s singles, as well as the men, women and mixed doubles.
For the national team, there could be several interesting combinations in action.
Ng Tze Yong leads the charge in the men’s singles and he should be taking some encouragement from his last tournament at the Singapore Open, where he reached the quarter-finals before bowing out to eventual champion Anthony Ginting.
Goh Jin Wei should fancy her chances of springing a surprise against Yeo Jia Min of Singapore and Sindhu, the two highest ranked women’s singles in the field.
In the men’s doubles, the combination of Chan-Tan Kian Meng could be fielded in the group stage, with Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik being kept fresh for the knockout rounds.
Chan had previously told Stadium Astro he had never considered playing in the men’s doubles due to its higher intensity, but could find himself in action in this multisport event.
Another interesting pairing would be Cheah Yee See-Lai Pei Jing in the women’s doubles.
While Cheah has dabbled in women’s doubles, Lai has always played in mixed doubles throughout her senior career.
Main women’s pair Pearly Tan-M.Thinaah could also see some action in the group stage.
As for the mixed doubles, Tan-Lai’s experience would put them ahead in the pecking order compared to the scratch pairing of Chan-Cheah, even though the independent pair did fare fared well recently.