The game kicks off at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha at 10pm, Bangladesh time
Bangladesh would need a miracle if they get a point against Qatar Friday, but that’s not the goal for the visiting side but to limit the deficit and give the reigning Asian champion a run for their money in the pending World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup 2023 joint qualifying fixture.
The difference between the two sides could not possibly have been so huge.
In terms of ranking, Qatar sit 125 places above, and with regards to preparation, they resumed football activities during the pandemic around two months earlier than the visiting side.
To give a clearer picture of the gulf in quality between the two sides, the World Cup host played friendlies against the likes of South Korea and Costa Rica last month, while an underprepared Bangladesh hosted a two-game friendly series against Nepal in Dhaka after a pause of eight months.
The situation worsened furthermore as Jamal Bhuiyan and Co flew to Doha without head coach Jamie Day due to Covid-19 infection, and took vital preparation there for two weeks, including two practice matches, in Day's absence for the first time in two years.
Assistant coach Stuart Watkiss took charge of training and had to focus more on the players gaining full match fitness.
His assessment is expected to be honing the defensive area, but the forward line remains a concern after in-form Nabib Newaj Jibon sustained knee injury during the second friendly against Nepal.
Half-fit Jiban joined the team a week later and very late good news arrived for Bangladesh when Day tested Covid-19 negative after 16 days in isolation.
Day flew to Qatar only two days before the crucial tie.
Day is set to be in the dug-out and his presence would indeed boost the team spirit.
The men in red and green can also take motivation from Qatar’s last meeting against them and India last year.
They lost the home leg 2-0 but fought bravely to thwart Qatar defence by creating more than half-a-dozen scoring chances.
The home advantage of muddy Bangabandhu National Stadium pitch will certainly not be there while Qatar pitch is faster than they are used to facing at home.
India’s heroic goalless draw away in Qatar can show some instance how to stop the host’s fast attacking line.
As goalkeeper Ashraful Islam Rana said before leaving Dhaka, the performance of Indian custodian Gurpreet Singh, who made 11 saves, left an inspiration before facing the Asian giant in foreign land.
Topu Barman was out injured in the first leg and replaced by young Riyadul Hasan Rafi alongside Yeasin Khan.
After recovering from long layoff, Topu started both the Nepal friendlies and the last two practice games.
Rafi and Yeasin partnered Topu alternatively and it could be the latter who may retain the place because of experience and better contribution in home tie.
Rayhan Hasan initiated unexpected scoring chances from his long throw-ins to surprise Qatar defence in the Bangladeshi capital.
Bishwanath Ghosh started at right-back in recent friendlies, proving to be match fit, and if he continues the game would get those long throw-ins inside the opposition box.
Manik Molla is favorite to start in deep midfield behind Jamal after impressing with interceptions since making his debut.
Saad Uddin and Mohammad Ibrahim are almost certain to start on the wings but will be entrusted with a lot of defensive work rather than going upward.
The toughest decision for Bangladesh coach is on the middle of forward line.
It’s unlikely that Jibon will have much game time as he is yet to make full recovery.
Sumon Reza made his debut against Nepal and started both games but the striker is too young and inexperienced to be fit for such a big game.
In that sense, Mahbubur Rahman Sufil is likely to have more playing time up front and Sohel Rana or Biplo Ahmed behind him if Jibon stays off the pitch.
The game kicks off at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha at 10pm, Bangladesh time.
Bangladesh currently sit bottom of the Group E standing with a solitary point from four matches while Qatar are top with 13 points from five games.