ESSEX Leopards’ player-coach Robert Youngblood is facing a fitness battle as his side go into arguably their biggest weekend of the season.
Youngblood played only limited minutes in the weekend double header in Yorkshire and was clearly struggling with a hamstring injury.
But he will be hoping to be involved when the Big Cats will look to reach their third final in 13 months when they travel to Hemel Storm in the National Trophy semi-final tomorrow.
The game will be the third time that Leopards have faced newly promoted Storm this season and they have won both of the previous games.
The teams met in Hertfordshire in the Trophy group stage in October, and in one of Leopards’ best performances of the season, 24 Greg Hernandez points led them to an 81-61 victory.
They also played in a Division One game in November, with Taner Adu scoring 14 and Carl Josey 13 as Youngblood’s side won 79-59 at home.
However, Hemel are two places behind Leopards in eighth spot having split their first 12 games in the top flight.
The other semi-final sees Tees Valley Mohawks host Bristol Academy Flyers, with the final taking place in Leicester on Saturday February 23.
Leopards are also in action on Sunday when they host Team Northumbria at the Brentwood Centre.
They are also in first season in Division One, and are the nursery club of BBL champions Newcastle Eagles.
They have made a good start to the season and are fourth with a 9-3 record and have games in hand over all the teams above them.
It will be the first time that the two clubs have met with a big crowd expected to be in attendance.