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Digicel T&T Pro League champions, bmobile Joe Public, will begin its quest to be crowned Caribbean Football Union Club Championship winners against perennial Dominican champions Bath Estate. The first-leg match will be played at the Windsor Park Stadium, Rousseau, Dominica on March 5, the same venue where fellow T&T club W Connection secured a 5–0 away first round win last year, while it won the return match 12–1. The home-and-away series involving ten clubs is also the first round of the CFU’s qualifying tournament for the 2010-2011 Concacaf Champion’s League preliminary phase.

The Eastern Lions, as Joe Public is called, will entertain Bath Estate in the second-leg at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya on March 19. All the matches in the preliminary phase kick off at 5 pm local time. Looking ahead to tie, Joe Public coach Derek King said his players were coming into their own having begun pre-season training earlier. “The guys have played two practice matches against the T&T Olympic squad (Under-23s) and we have won both so in terms of match readiness we are getting there.”

King believes the team is a much more balanced one than last year’s bunch, which won a historic five domestic trophies. “We have more depth and we also have a few new faces in national goalkeepers Marvin Phillip, Glenroy Samuel as well as defenders Makan Hislop, Charles Pollard and striker Andre Toussaint who have all settled in quickly. Asked if he knew anything about his opponents, the 28-year-old King, the youngest coach in the T&T Pro League replied, “We did some research but it was not much. But we have to prepare our team to the best of our ability because we don’t intend to take them (Bath) for granted.

We go into this competition with the goal of qualifying for the Concacaf Champions League group phase, but before we get there we have to take it one match at a time.” Trent Noel, who joined the club midway during the last season, will wear the team’s captain band in the absence of Kerry Baptiste, who left on Monday for one-week trials at English Championship Division club, Ipswich Town. The Eastern Lions, winners of the CFU title in 1998 and runner-up in 2007, last competed in the Concacaf Champions League in 2008 and reached the group stages but failed to win a match. A new CFU Club champion will be crowned after last year’s winner and four-time champions W Connection (2001, 2002, 2006 and 2009) failed to secure a place in this year’s event after ending in fourth spot in the T&T Pro League.

First Round Fixtures

Friday March 5
Avenues United (SVG) vs CSD Barber (Ant), National Stadium (SVG)
Leo Victor (Sur) vs Devonshire Cougars (Ber), Andre Kamperveen Stadium
Hubentut Fortuna (N/Ant) vs Walking Boys (Sur), Ergilio Hato
Bath Estate (Dominica) vs Joe Public, National Stadium Dominica
Guyana Defence Force vs System 3 (SVG), Guyana D/Force Stadium

Friday March 19
CSD Barber (Curacao) vs Avenues United (SVG), Ergilio Hato
Devonshire Cougars (Ber) vs Leo Victor (Sur), Bermuda Sports Centre
Walking Boys (Sur) vs Hubentut Fortuna (N/Ant), Andre Kamperveen Stadium
Joe Public vs Bath Estate (Ant), Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya
System 3 (SVG) vs Guyana Defence Force, National Stadium