League leaders Abahani will take on title contenders Sheikh Russel KC at the Bangabandhu National Stadium today in what could go a long way towards deciding the outcome of this season's Grameenphone Bangladesh Premier League.
Four-time champions Abahani (27) have a two-point lead over Sheikh Russel, having played a match (12) more, and an outright victory would put them in a commanding position with only four matches remaining. A victory for Sheikh Russel, on the other hand, will see them go one point past Abahani having played a match less and will surely make them the favourites for the title. The other title contenders, Sheikh Jamal, will be the beneficiaries if today's match ends in a draw.
Both teams come into this match on the back of victories, Abahani having doused Sheikh Jamal 1-0 and Sheikh Russel winning 2-0 away at Muktijoddha Sangsad. Abahani coach Ardeshir Pournimat has a full-strength side at his disposal as veteran defender Mohammad Sujan returns from injury.
“We'll have to repeat the performance we put in against Sheikh Jamal in this match as they are a very good side. They have good strikers including Sony Norde,” felt Ardeshir.
Sheikh Russel however will not have a full-strength side as they might miss the services of strikers Zahid Hasan Emily (rib injury) and Bukola Okalelan (ankle injury). The good news for coach Maruful Haque is that midfielder Mamunul Islam and striker Mithun Chowdhury returns from suspension.
“If we lose this match, we will fall back. A draw would not be as bad, but we will look for all three points, even with the injury problems,” said Maruf yesterday. “The opposition are tactically very strong, so we will have to guard our defence very well.”
The first-leg match was won 1-0 by Sheikh Russel, courtesy of a headed goal from their Bosnian defender Bojan Petric.
Today's match will start at 4:30 pm and satellite channel BTV World will beam the match live from the venue.