Abahani-Brothers Semifinal Today
The battle for the Tk one-crore top prize gets damn serious as the Citycell Super Cup enters the knockout stage today.
Abahani will take on Brothers Union in the first of their double-leg semifinals at the Bangabandhu National Stadium. The match, which kicks off at 5 pm, will be telecast live by BTV.
Abahani have won their all three group stage matches convincingly to finish champions and will start as strong favourites to make the March 27 final.
Brothers, after a poor start during a goalless draw against Farashganj, routed Chittagong Abahani 3-0 before another draw, 1-1, against eventual group winners Mohammedan.
Amalesh Sen's B. League champions, however, cannot take victory for granted despite winning their last 12 matches in a row including nine in the B. League, as Brothers have showed significant improvement, especially the fighting spirit they had shown against Mohammedan.
And both teams have decided to go on full assault in the first leg semifinal to take advantage in the return-leg clash scheduled for March 23.
"The first match is crucial. The team that win the first leg will have the advantage and can relax in the second," told Brothers manager Amer Khan.
The Oranges had beaten Abahani 2-0 in the first leg of the B. League but the Sky Blues from Dhanmondi took revenge with a 3-0 second-leg victory.
"It could be anybody's game but we have to remember that we are playing two matches, which is something new for us. Abahani have retained almost the same side for three seasons now but we have a young side with a few experienced ones. So we expect a very competitive match," added Amer, who will rely on his side's speed, which is increasing gradually.
"Refereeing has had been a problem and we hope that the semifinals would be exception," said the former Brothers midfielder who lost temper during their group match against Mohammedan but regretted his actions.
"Abahani are a team in form and their attack is one of the best. But if we can mark some of their key players, it would be tough to score against us."
While Abahani have been a free scoring team with Nigeria's 5-goal marksman Emeka, Bangladesh international Emily and Ghana's Ibrahim showing top form, the trio would be a headache for Brothers, who might have to use a third-choice fullback in Akramuzzaman Liton.
Coach Wasim Iqbal, who will form a 3-5-2 line, has yet to confirm the availability of rightback Arup or Ashraful.
"The difference between the two teams is in foreign recruits. Abahani's foreign collection is really good," said Wasim, whose side have suffered in absence of a regular goal getter.
Ghanaian Henry Quaye and local boy Tapu make their strike line but Abahani have the tightest defence, which has conceded just one goal in the tournament against eight.
The Sky Blues, who began the richest tournament in the country with a 3-0 win over Rahmatganj and followed it up with a 2-1 defeat of Chittagong Mohammedan before dumping Sheikh Russel out of the Cup stage 3-0, want to continue with their consistency," said manager Satyajit Das Rupu.
"Maintaining the consistency is important. We have to use the opportunities that come because Brothers had a great game against Mohammedan," the former national midfielder said.
Abahani's impressive young midfielder Mamun has recovered from illness, which means Amalesh will have all his players available for a 4-4-2 formation that he loves.
"We know if we lose one match there would be a chance to recover but we don't want to wait. It's a tournament and the mental state is important. We don't want to wait the days between the two legs in tension," Amalesh told.
Abahani were still waiting for the ITC (international transfer certificate) of their fourth foreign recruit and Rupu said that Ghana midfielder Tetteh will get into the players' list if the documents arrive in time.
"There isn't going to be much changes in the side from our previous game as all the players looked in good form. We have a tough opposition, so we not only have to be at our best but also need some luck," added Rupu.
Abahani: Biplab, Nazrul, Sujan, Samad, Waly, Abul, Joy, Emeka, Mamun, Ibrahim and Emily.
Brothers: Zia, Ariful, Shuvra, Mishu, Liton, Zahid, Matiur Munna, Rikto, Shakil, Henry and Tapu.