The opening Group D game will kick off at the Bangabandhu National Stadium at 7.15 pm
No side is fully fit and prepared. None has played an official game since the pandemic halted the league. But these are likely to matter very less to curb the heat when two archrivals Abahani Limited and Mohammedan Sporting Club take on each other for the season’s first Dhaka Derby Thursday.
The opening Group D game will kick off at the Bangabandhu National Stadium at 7.15pm after Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra will lock horns with Police FC in the day’s first fixture at the same venue.
The most popular derby of the country doesn’t attract crowd anymore like it did before but the atmosphere among the players and fans have not changed much which was evident during recent clashes.
Last two meetings ended 4-0 but the victors changed sides although out of total 23 matches in the Bangladesh Premier League till date, Abahani won 11 times while Mohammedan managed only three. Sky Blues also won the last Dhaka Derby in Federation Cup back in 2013.
Abahani will be without Nigerian striker Sunday Chizoba who was the club’s most prolific scorer in last five seasons. He is replaced by Brazilian Francisco Torres who is most likely to make debut. Eyes will be on Kervens Belfort as the Haitian winger scored a brace during last derby in March.
The local recruits are almost same in both squads but Mohammedan signed some eight new young players who may not be available for selection too early. Like Brazilian midfielder Raphael Augusto, Mohammedan’s two new foreign signings Burkina Faso defender Mounzir Coulidiati and Nigerian midfielder Abiola Nurat joined the camp lately. Malian striker Souleymane Diabate and Japanese midfielder Uryu Nagata will be Mohammedan’s key strength in attacking third.
Mohammedan head coach Sean Lane was found at the BNS press box Wednesday. The English coach admitted that the first game being such derby is an advantage. “This is the best game you could hope for. Players of both teams will be keen to play. During the draw I wanted to play against Abahani because it would create interest.”
Abahani’s head coach Mario Lemos said, “It’s been a long break. Everybody at the club is excited for this game. It’s a derby with a lot of history and that we want to win.”
The winners will set one foot in the quarterfinals from the three-team group comprising struggling Muktijoddha Sangsad as well.