All focus will remain on Federation Cup champions Sheikh Jamal DC when the Bangladesh Premier League gets underway through today's opening encounter between defending champions Sheikh Russel KC and the promoted Uttar Baridhara Club at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
After forming the strongest team on paper, Sheikh Russel KC demonstrated their prowess by pulling off the rare feat of a treble win last season. This season however, it is Sheikh Jamal who have taken Sheikh Russel's place by building a formidable side comprising nine national players and quality foreign players, including Haitian Sony Norde who struck seven goals in the Federation Cup. Sheikh Jamal proved that they are the form team this season after clinching the title of the season's curtain-raising tournament two weeks ago.
The win -- which featured dominant performances against Mohammedan, Abahani and others -- is considered the start of Sheikh Jamal's march to their stated aim of winning all the season's trophies.
However, Sheikh Jamal, who clinched the coveted professional football league trophy two years ago, have kept their feet on the ground -- they believe that winning the Bangladesh Premier League will not be easy as there are three to four opponents of equal strength.
Sheikh Jamal captain Mamunul Islam believed that they would have to face some stiff challenges from teams like Abahani, Mohammedan, Muktijoddha Sangsad and Sheikh Russel KC.
A strong reserve bench is considered the main strength of the title contenders of the seventh edition of the professional league, which will see the participating ten clubs playing three matches against each other for the first time instead of the traditional home-and-away matches.
Sheikh Jamal's reserve bench, which many consider as strong as the first teams of other title contenders, will be especially advantageous over a long season.
“However, consistent performances are more important than having a strong reserve bench to win the league title,” said Muktijoddha Sangsad's coach Shafiqul Islam Manik, who sees his outfit as one of the title contenders after finishing behind Sheikh Jamal in the Federation Cup.
Mohammedan's assistant coach Jewel Rana believes winning the Bangladesh Premier League will be a tough job for any side – no side can say for sure that they will win a given match. Jewel, however, believes that Mohammedan will be playing for the coveted title though they have some weaknesses in the midfield and backline.
Four-time champions Abahani are also not far behind other contenders, but their Iranian coach Ali Akbar believes that the first phase of the league would be used as a preparatory phase in their bid to regain the title while Sheikh Russel coach Maruful Haque is confident of defending their title despite having lost their strength to the pre-transfer market this time.
Teams like BJMC, Brothers Union, Feni Soccer Club, Chittagong Abahani and Uttar Baridhara will be ready to derail the title contenders, especially after the way they fought against the powerhouses in the Federation Cup.