No clear favourites

Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup begins today
The Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup tournament is all set to get underway today at the MA Aziz Stadium in Chittagong with no clear favourites emerging from among the eight teams in the tournament.
Although the second edition has lost a bit of shine in the absence of Indian clubs, the inclusion of two teams from Kyrgyzstan, South Korea and Maldives has strengthened the title race among the eight teams from six nations.
The team from Afghanistan is also comparable to other teams but the main focus will be on defending champions Chittagong Abahani, Bangladesh Premier League champions Abahani and FC Alga of Kyrgyzstan as Pocheon Citizen FC, a third-tier league South Korean team, has come with a young squad similar to Maldives Premier League runners-up TC Sports Club, who have brought 12 teenagers along with three national players and three foreign players.
Five-time Kyrgyz Premier League champions FC Alga — who held Sheikh Jamal to a 1-1 draw in their AFC Cup Play-off Qualifiers in 2015 and finished behind the Dhanmondi-based club by virtue of goal difference — are tipped as one of the favourites, while Dhaka Abahani and Chittagong Abahani are considered two of the others.
“I think the tournament is going to be a tough one because the participating teams are expected to be strong and we can only speak about who are favourites after a few games are played,” FC Alga’s head of delegation Emil Busurmankulov said after practice at the Shaheed Eng Shamsuzzaman Stadium in Bondor.
Emil also informed that it would be FC Alga’s third international tournament after their participation in the AFC Cup Play-off Qualifiers twice in 2015 and 2016 and that their squad has five national players but no foreign players.
As in previous editions, Dhaka Abahani are thought to be one of the title contenders following their domestic success and with a squad that has been together for nearly two years being bolstered by the inclusion of Sheikh Jamal striker Emeka Darlington and defender Yeasin Khan and Muktijoddha Sangsad midfielder Simon Ezeodika, their hopes of making the final have been brightened, although their experience in the last edition was not good.
“I am optimistic about the quality of the players we have and I would like to win the title here because we are the league champions and we have a lot of national players,” said Dhaka Abahani coach Drago Mamic before the start of training at the MA Aziz Stadium.
“The teams who have come here from other countries are surely good teams. I have checked and there are no easy team,” added the Croatian who believes a good start against TC Sport Club today is very important for them.
Hosts Chittagong Abahani had not been favourites in the inaugural edition as their team mostly comprised of hired players, but they surprised all and sundry to win the title. However, despite forming a strong squad which won the Independence Cup and became runners-up in the Premier Football League, the Sky Blues seemingly lack the confidence to repeat the feat with key senior players Mamunul Islam and Zahid Hossain not in great shape and the local players having to play with a new set of foreign players this time.
“I can’t provide the exact information about Chittagong Abahani until one game is played. As defending champions we are also favourites but FC Alga and Dhaka Abahani are also favourites on paper,” said Chittagong Abahani coach Saiful Bari Titu over the phone.

-With The Daily Star input

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