The title defence of three-time reigning Pro League champions Central FC is slipping fast with eight regular league games left in the 2017 campaign.
Central, last season’s historic Pro League three-peat champions, must seek a win and moreso, a boost in confidence when they host leaders North East Stars from 8pm tonight in the second game of a double-header at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
North East Stars (21 points) look down on Central (10 points and a game in hand) from five spots away, while mid-table San Juan Jabloteh (14 points and two games in hand) and Defence Force (12 points) face each other from 6pm in the opening game at the Couva venue today.
W Connection (20 points), who Central narrowly escaped by a point for the crown last season, are within striking distance of the top spot and welcome Point Fortin Civic (9 points) from 4pm at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella on Saturday.
Also on Saturday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Morvant Caledonia United (7 points) are against Police FC (10 points).
But for now, all attention will be on Central, the high rollers of the last three seasons, and North East Stars, a side in search of their first league crown since 2004.
Central held the Derek King coached-North East Stars to a 1-1 draw in their first and only meeting this season in a much anticipated rescheduled Round One match on September 9 at the Arima Velodrome with legendary Trinidad and Tobago striker Stern John debuting as head coach.
League and Caribbean Club Championship-winning coach Dale Saunders had departed Central at the beginning of the month due to unpaid salaries, as clubs continue to “struggle without Government’s assistance” according to the Central’s operations manager Kevin Harrison back then.
Saunders’ decision was one of the latest among an exodus of staff and players that now represent North East Stars.
However, since holding the Stars to a draw the Couva Sharks have lost three games in a row, counting their 2-0 exit from the FA Trophy first round (Round-of-64) on Saturday and Tuesday’s 2-0 league defeat against bitter Couva rivals W Connection.
Furthermore, Central have not posted a win in their last nine games in all competitions—six of them ending in losses—since defeating Defence Force 4-0 on June 30.
Meanwhile North East Stars are undefeated in their last four games in all competitions with the last two ending in wins—most recently Tuesday’s 2-0 win over third-placed Club Sando.
This weekend’s Pro League fixtures will culminate on Sunday with Sando (17 points), eager to rebound from their weekday loss, visiting cellar-placed MIC-IT St. Ann’s Rangers (7 points) from 4pm at St. Augustine Senior Secondary School Ground.