Sheikh Russel KC will be hoping for a good start in their debut appearance in the AFC President's Cup when they take on KRL Football Club of Pakistan in one of two openers at the Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo, Sri Lanka today.
Sheikh Russel earned the right to represent Bangladesh in the third-tier club competition of Asia by emerging champions in Bangladesh Premier League and became the second club from Bangladesh to take part in the competition. Abahani have participated five times in the competition but failed to make it to the final round on each occasion.
Playing the final round will be a tough ask too for Sheikh Russel, who have lost much of their strength due to departure of star players which has left them languishing in sixth position in the league.
In an attempt to change the fate, Sheikh Russel brought in Montenegrin coach Dragan Djukanovic to replace last season's successful coach Maruful Haque but things have not changed yet under the new coach.
“Our aim is to go beyond the group phase but we are now focused on the first match against KRL FC. We will be all but confirmed to play the next round if we can win our first match, which is really important for us,” said Dragan at the pre-tournament press briefing in Colombo yesterday, according to message received here.
Dragan has problems upfront as there is no genuine striker in the squad and ankle injury of Mithun Chowdhury has put him in further trouble to choose his playing eleven against KRL FC, last edition's runners-up.
“We are not thinking much about the opponents and their strength rather we are trying to put our best to make a good start,” said captain Biplob Bhattacharjee.
KRL FC coach Tariq Lutfi is optimistic about his side's progress but he seems to feel the absence of two midfielders, who have joined the national team to play a friendly against Palestine.
“However, the boys are fully motivated to meet the challenges and have been here to qualify for the next round,” said Lutfi.
Echoing the sentiment of his coach, captain Kamran Khan said that they would give hundred percent to beat Sheikh Russel.