AFC Cup: Chennaiyin FC and Abahani Dhaka aim Group E top spot

Both coaches John Gregory (Chennaiyin) and Mario Lemos (Abahani) underscored the importance of the three points in their quest for qualification to the knockout stages of the competition.

Chennaiyin FC players training at The Arena Stadium in Ahmedabad ahead of their AFC Cup fixture against Abahani Dhaka.   -  Special Arrangement

A confident Chennaiyin FC will be seeking to round off its 'home' leg of the AFC Cup group stages with a win over Bangladesh Premier League champion Abahani Dhaka at the Arena Stadium in Ahmedabad on Tuesday.

Both coaches John Gregory (Chennaiyin) and Mario Lemos (Abahani) underscored the importance of the three points in their quest for qualification from Group E to the knockout stages of the competition. Chennaiyin is ahead of Abahani on goal difference with both teams having four points in two matches.  

Chennaiyin was dealt a blow in the form of an injury to midfielder Raphael Augusto. Gregory revealed the Brazilian underwent a minor knee surgery on Sunday but he expects him to be back in time for the reverse fixture in Dhaka on May 15.

Despite the disappointment of the Super Cup final loss this month, Gregory is pleased with the turnaround effected by his side after a lacklustre ISL season. The Englishman praised its ‘resolute defending’, particularly in the AFC Cup where it has kept four clean sheets in four matches so far.

Chennaiyin’s defence will need to be on top form yet again against a free-scoring Abahani side, which currently sits second in its domestic league. According to Abahani coach Mario Lemos, "Chennaiyin will be the biggest team" his side will face this season but he remains confident of the Sky Blues causing an upset.

RELATED | East Bengal to AIFF: Consider our legacy, 100-year existence and act accordingly

Abahani will be boosted by the arrival of its top-scorer Sunday Chizoba here on Tuesday morning after being granted a visa. It will, however, be without key injured center-backs Topu Barman and Tutul Hossain Badsha.  

Lemos felt his side paid the price for overconfidence in its 2-2 draw against Minerva Punjab at home. “We like to play attacking football at home which we can’t do here (AFC Cup). Chennaiyin are strong in set pieces and we will have to keep our discipline,” said the Portuguese.

In defensive midfielder Wellington Priori and forward Kervens Belfort, Abahani has former ISL players it could turn to against Chennaiyin.

  Dugout videos