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Željezničar favourites in Bosnia and Herzegovina

FK Željezničar will begin the defence of their Bosnian Premier League title as favourites but will be certainly wary of the threat posed by a determined chasing pack.

Željezničar are the team to beat once again in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Željezničar are the team to beat once again in Bosnia and Herzegovina ©Fedja Krvavac

FK Željezničar might begin the defence of their Bosnian Premier League title against NK Travnik on Saturday as favourites but they will be wary of the threat posed by a chasing pack determined to wrestle the crown from the five-time champions.

The loss of Swiss-born Liberian international defender Patrick Nyema Gerhardt to Australian side Melbourne Heart FC has done little to dampen the expectations of Željezničar fans, who firmly believe their side will win back-to-back titles under the guidance of coach Amar Osim. Indeed, the 44-year-old is preparing for his fourth season in charge during his second spell at the club and was the only coach to remain at the helm for the duration of last term.

"We want to stay as the number one team in Bosnia and Herzegovina this season," Osim said. "It will be difficult because it is harder to defend a title than to win it. Široki Brijeg, Borac and Velež are also serious contenders for the championship, so we have to do our best this season."

Osim's charges will face stiff competition from city rivals FK Sarajevo, who are the only Bosnia side left in UEFA competition. The likes of Said Husejinović, Asmir Suljić and Emir Hadžić have shown in the UEFA Europa League first and second qualifying rounds that the 2007 champions have the quality to compete for honours this season.

Dragan Jović, the Sarajevo coach, said: "Our goal this season is to win the title. We have quality players and perhaps the only negative I see is the departure of our goalkeeper Adi Adilović to Greek side AEK Komotini."

Slobodan Starčević, who replaced Slaviša Božičić at the FK Borac Banja Luka helm, will be hoping that the 2010 winners will be in contention after a disappointing third-placed finish last season. At the other end of the table, FK Slavija Sarajevo and NK GOŠK Gabela will be keen to avoid a repeat of last season when both narrowly avoided the drop. Meanwhile, promoted duo Gradina Srebrenik and FK Radnik Bijeljina will aim to take their imperious home form up a level as they aim to preserve their top-flight status.