With tonight’s inter-league challenge fixture against Belle Vue Aces postponed due to rain, Edinburgh Monarchs turn their attention to the defence of their League Cup speedway crown when they travel to face Glasgow Tigers at Ashfield on Sunday.
The tie is the first match of the northern group qualifying section, which also comprises Berwick Bandits.
The Tigers boast a strong line-up this season and Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess warned: “This is going to be a very stiff test for us.”
With only the group winners progressing to the semi-finals the margin for error is small. Harkess added: “I think everybody will lose an away match, but if you can pick up a point on the road this could be a real bonus, especially if all three teams win their home matches.”
The Tigers, who have invested heavily again in their squad for 2016, are already being touted as championship contenders. “They will be so hyped up for this meeting and if anybody thinks we are going through there to steamroller Glasgow they are living on a different planet, it is not going to happen,” said Harkess. “If we come away with something I’ll be absolutely delighted.”
Harkess insists Monarchs will need to produce a real team effort to stand any chance of surprising their hosts.
“Everybody needs to produce something. One man is not going to win us the match or lose it. I don’t expect anybody in our team to score a maximum because Glasgow are so strong, so we need everybody chipping in.”
And for Monarchs’ teenage reserve Daniel Bewely his first Scottish derby will be a true baptism of fire.
“As long as he puts in four solid laps that will be fine,” said Harkess. “Nothing more is expected from him. Obviously if he manages to score one or two points that would be great for him. But for the first few weeks he really just has to condition himself to what he is involved in.”
Team-mate Erik Riss might just hold the key. The German failed to finish a race on his first visit to Ashfield last season but fully redeemed himself in the play-off Grand Final first leg when he picked up nine points in the 45-45 draw which paved the way for Monarchs to scoop the Premier League Championship crown for the second time in a row in front of their own fans at Armadale.
Tigers No.1 Richard Lawson is desperate for his side to get their silverware campaign off to a flying start, saying: “I can’t see many teams who are better than us. You obviously need luck avoiding injuries and the like, but I think we can get a trophy this year.”