National senior men's defender Keston Julien has a 50/50 chance of featuring for reigning Moldovan champions FC Sheriff Tiraspol when the team kicks off its European Champions League (CL) Group Stage debut on Wednesday.
FC Sheriff, the record 19-time domestic winners, will open its Group D series against Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk at the Sheriff Stadium, Tiraspol, Moldova from 12.45 pm.
Should the T&T international feature, he will join an illustrious list of T&T players to have played in the Champions League. They include David Nakhid, Dwight Yorke, Marvin Andrews, Russell Latapy, Shaka Hislop, and Khaleem Hyland, the last of them in the 2011/2012 season with Belgium’s Racing Genk.
In the other match in Group D, Italian champion Inter Milan is at home to record 13-time European winners Real Madrid of Spain from 3 pm.
Last month, Sheriff Tiraspol secured their first-ever passage to the group stages in five attempts courtesy of a 3-0 aggregate win over Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb. This after FC Sheriff won the first-leg 3-0 at home and then battled to a 0-0 draw in the second leg to reach the 32-team main draw Champions League competition.
However, Julien, a former Presentation College has not featured for the club since coming off injured in the team’s first-leg win over the Croatians and is uncertain to feature.
This after the 22-year-old Julien suffered a hamstring injury eight minutes into the second half of the first-leg win and was replaced by Brazilian Fernando Constanza has made the position his own since then.
FC Sheriff Tiraspol has only played three matches since Julien suffered the injury in late August with the T&T player only making a return to the team’s bench in their last outing on Sunday last.
Despite being underdogs for today’s CL encounter, Julien and his teammates will be buoyed by back-to-back wins in their domestic league, both 2-0 triumphs while Shakhtar defeated rivals Olimpik Donetsk 2-0 on Saturday to stretch their unbeaten run to four matches.
Firstly, they blanked FC Balti on August 28 followed by a similar scoreline against FC Petrocub Hincesti on Sunday.
With the back-to-back victories over the second and third places teams on the eight-team table respectively, Sheriff moved up to the fourth spot with 12 points from five matches, eight behind leaders Milsami who have played three matches more. Petrocub Hincesti is second with 18 points followed by FC Balti, with 14.
Following its CL debut, the team will return to league play on Saturday away to fifth place Zimbru Chisinau, who has ten points.
In the Third Round of the CL qualifiers, FC Sheriff Tiraspol edged Serbia's Red Star Belgrade 2-1 on aggregate while Dinamo Zagreb also qualified, 2-1 on aggregate against Poland's Legia Warsaw.
FC Sheriff had previously whipped Armenian FC Alashkert 4-1 on aggregate while Red Star Belgrade trashed Kazakhstan’s Kairat Almaty 6-2 on aggregate.
When CL qualification kicked off in early July FC Sherrif Tiraspol swept past KF Teuta Durres 5-0 on aggregate, and Alashkert got past Connah’s Quay Nomads 3-2 on aggregate.
Julien, who last represented T&T against the Bahamas in the failed Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022 campaign, is coming off capturing his first major international accolade with Sheriff.