Both teams lack enough preparation time and key members due to injury
International football is all set to return to South Asia after a long Covid-19 hiatus with host Bangladesh taking on Nepal in the first of two Fifa friendlies at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka at 5pm Friday.
The second game of the Mujib Barsho Fifa International Football Series is scheduled for Tuesday.
Covid-19 tests were carried out on players, coaches and coaching staffs several times over the last three weeks while 8,000 spectators, one-third of total capacity, will be allowed on the stands to safeguard the games amid health concerns.
Nepal left seven squad players back home due to virus infection and injury, while one among the visiting side tested Covid-19 positive in Wednesday’s latest report.
Meanwhile, all the members of the home team found their Covid-19 results negative but they too have some regular players ruled out due to injury.
How the sides line up
Bangladesh didn’t take the last-day home advantage of practicing at the match venue and allowed the visiting team instead.
The men in red and green trained for around one and a half hours in the morning without any heavy workout.
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Nepal however, started preparation camp one week after Bangladesh players who started training together on October 24 under the supervision of local coaches.
The Gorkhalis flew in through chartered plane on November 5 and held four more training sessions in the capital since then.
The focus was on fitness of the players in the initial weeks due to long break of more than seven months owing to the pandemic, except the Bashundhara Kings players, who started training at the club premises in September but has no recent match playing experience.
The tactical work began only in the last week and fitness condition also improved much more than at the beginning, according to the players and the coaches.
The two games would leave mark in the Fifa ranking but none of the sides seemed to be much worried about the result as Jamie Day repeated in the pre-match press conference that the main intention is to get the players prepared and bring the game back to the pitch after a long pause.
Nepal head coach Bal Gopal Maharjan also echoed similar sentiment.
Both coaches are treating the friendlies as part of their preparation for the upcoming World Cup and Asian Cup joint qualifying games.
After Bangladesh’s away fixture against Qatar was rescheduled to December 4, Day admitted that the focus shifted to getting the team ready for the toughest tie of the year.
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Bangladesh have the number over Nepal in terms of overall head-to-head record, but currently the Himalayan neighbor sit 17 places above the former in the Fifa ranking, while Nepal also won the last meeting during the 2018 Saff Championship.
The stats and rankings may not have much impact in the game due to the new circumstances brought forward by the pandemic.
Both teams lack enough preparation time and key members due to injury.
The home team will be missing injured forward Matin Mia, who netted a brace during the Bangabandhu Gold Cup 2020 in January, which propelled them to the semi-final.
Day’s regular pick Masuk Mia Jonny also remain sidelined, while former captain Mamunul Islam was also ruled out for similar reason.
Latest casualty is Arifur Rahman, who has also been ruled out after sustaining ankle injury.
Rohit Chand, Devendra Tamang and Bishal Rai are some of the notable absences in the Nepal squad.
Day hinted that there will be some debutants in the game, especially in the forward line-up, while Gopal said it could be anything from one to five debutants in the XI.