Bangladesh take on a young and unknown Sri Lanka side in the first of the two-match SS Steel FIFA Friendly Series here today.
The first international match to be held in this district town has created a lot of buzz among the football lovers here and a sell-out crowd is expected at the 12,000-capacity Shamsul Huda Stadium. The match will kick off at 3:15 pm and will be telecast live on BTV.
There should also be a festive atmosphere inside the venue, which neither of the teams did have an opportunity to look at so far, and the festivity would certainly be complete with a win for the hosts. But the islanders will not be overwhelmed by the occasion, coach Nikola Kavazovic implied at the pre-match press conference at a hotel yesterday.
"The attention [that we are getting] is nothing new for me; it may be for my players. Playing before a big crowd will be a learning experience for them. But I hope the Bangladeshi referees will forget where they are from during the 90 minutes," quipped the Serbian.
Despite having a 3-8 win-loss record against Bangladesh, Kavazovic can take heart from the fact that the last time the two sides met, the Lankans had a comprehensive 3-0 win (in the AFC Challenge Cup in 2010 in Colombo). However, a lot has changed since then as the Lankans flooded the squad with young blood with an average age of only 22 years. The youthfulness of the squad could either prove to be an advantage or a disadvantage. Kavazovic put a positive spin on things.
"In my dictionary, the word 'experience' means a lot of things. Old doesn't mean experienced or young inexperienced. My players have so much of international match experience at U-17, U-19 and U-21 levels. Ten of them already had played international matches before my arrival [in July 2014]," informed the coach.
Kavazovic's opposite number, Saiful Bari Titu, admitted that he didn't have a lot of information about these young Sri Lanka players, who could have an edge in terms of fitness and enthusiasm.
"Sri Lanka have reshuffled their side a lot after the last SAFF Championship [in 2013]. They are young and may be a bit inexperienced; but then again they would have good fitness level and enthusiasm," said Titu, who has been elevated to the position of interim head coach after the departure of Dutchman Lodewijk de Kruif.
"We couldn't watch any recent matches or practice sessions of Sri Lanka. So we would try to cash in on whatever mistakes they will be making during the match," added Titu.
Unlike his Lankan counterpart, Titu has a mixture of youth and experience to call from. Stalwarts like Mamunul Islam, Zahid Hossain, Zahid Hassan Emily, Mithun Chowdhury, Jamal Bhuiyan, Nasiruddin Chowdhury and Ariful Islam lend the side the solidity as well as guile while youngsters like Wahed Ahmed, Sohel Rana and Hemanta Vincent Biswas bring in pace and enthusiasm.
Titu's game plan is simple too, which is continuing with the style de Kruif had instilled and play in an attacking 4-3-3 formation, with Mamunul playing the pivotal role in midfield. But Titu may be forced to make a couple of changes to the usual set-up in the midfield as Hemanta has not fully recovered from a hamstring injury and Jamal arrived after a long flight from Denmark only on Wednesday.