AFC Cup: Chennaiyin FC looks to continue winning run in Dhaka

A win against Abahani Dhaka will take Chennaiyin FC closer to the Inter-Zonal playoff semifinals of the AFC Cup.

Chennaiyin FC's Jeje Lalpekhlua in action against Abahani Dhaka during their AFC Cup group E clash in Ahmedabad.   -  Special Arrangement

Chennaiyin FC will look to continue its winning run and consolidate its position at the top of Group E when it takes on Abahani Dhaka in its first away match of the AFC Cup in Dhaka Wednesday.

A win on Wednesday at the Bangabandhu National Stadium will take Chennaiyin closer to the Inter-Zone playoff semifinals against the winner of Group D.

Chennaiyin is leading the Group E with seven points -- with two wins and a draw -- while Abahani is second with four points. All the four sides have played three matches each so far. Minerva Punjab is third with three points while Nepalese outfit Manang Marshyangdi Club is at the bottom with just one point. Only the top team from the group will make it to the next round.

Chennaiyin had defeated Abahani by a solitary goal in their first leg match in Ahmedabad on April 30 and a win for the 2015 and 2017-18 Indian Super League champion on Wednesday will put it in a strong position to qualify for the next round with 10 points.

The John Gregory-coached Indian side began its AFC Cup campaign with a draw against Minerva and then notched up back-to-back victories against Manang Marshyangdi and Abahani.

But the visitor may not find it easy against Abahani this time. Anything other than a win for the Dhaka side will severely dent its chances of progressing further.

“We are here in Bangladesh to continue our good results so far in the group stage. We have managed to remain unbeaten and we have a tough game against Abahani. It probably represents our toughest and most crucial match for us in the group stage,” Gregory said at the customary pre-match press conference on Tuesday.

“Abahani were very hard to play against, in the reverse fixture in Ahmedabad. We were a tad bit fortunate to get the goal as well. So yes, we are looking forward to a difficult challenge. We look forward to adding some more points to our tally.”

Talking further about his side’s opponents, Gregory said, “Abahani are very strong. Especially their throw-ins are menacing. They also have a tall and physical presence from set-pieces. We do know about a few of their players like Wellington and Belfort whom we have faced in the Indian Super League before. Overall, they are a very good side. We do not underestimate them one bit.”

Anirudh Thapa will return to the same venue where India had lost to Maldives, under his captaincy, in the SAFF Cup final last year.   -  R. Ragu


Anirudh Thapa had scored Chennaiyin’s only goal of the match against Abahani two weeks ago in Ahmedabd and 21-year-old midfielder will return to the same venue where India had lost to Maldives, under his captaincy, in the SAFF Cup final last year.

“It still hurts and I have not been able to forget it to be honest. But the experience means that I know the ground and the conditions well and will try my best to do something special with the Chennaiyin team to replace that memory with a good one,” said the 21-year-old Chennaiyin and India midfielder.

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