ATK Mohun Bagan faces stern Abahani test in AFC Cup

Local heavyweight ATK Mohun Bagan will have its task cut out when it faces six-time Bangladesh Premier League champion Abahani Limited in the AFC Cup playoff here on Tuesday.

The biggest advantage for ATKMB is its big signing, Finnish midfielder Joni Kauko, was in his elements scoring a brace against BSC.   -  FOCUS SPORTS / ISL

ATK Mohun Bagan faces the challenge of six-time Bangladesh Premier League champion Abahani Dhaka in the AFC Cup play-off stage as it seeks to secure a place in the group league round of the continental club championship.

The match at the Salt Lake Stadium on Tuesday will allow spectators upto 75 per cent of the capacity giving the host the hope for a strong vocal backup from the galleries.

Despite having notched up a comfortable 5-0 win against Sri Lankan champion side Blue Star SC in the preliminary stage, the ATKMB squad sounded cautious about its next opponent.

Bangladesh is traditionally strong in football and Abahani Dhaka is a legacy team much like what ATK Mohun Bagan represents in India.

The host may also be taking into account the way the Indian national side struggled  against Bangladesh before managing a 1-1 draw off an 88th minute equaliser (from Adil Khan) in a World Cup/Asian Cup qualifiers match in October 2019.

ALSO READ | Santosh Trophy: Meghalaya prevails over Rajasthan in five-goal thriller

“The international competition is like the university level while the domestic league is like the high school. The level of competition is completely different. You learn things in school but your best moments come in the university,” the ATKMB’s Spanish coach Juan Ferrando said, referring to the level of competition he is expecting.

With names like Roy Krishna and Sandesh Jhingan joining the list of unlikely starters, Ferrando hinted about retaining the core of the team that played the previous match while adding a few names according to their state of fitness.

The presence of the likes of Finland’s Joni Kauko and Frenchman Hugo Boumous will be crucial to ATKMB's creative plans.

Abahani Dhaka has a good mix of foreign and Bangladesh national team players. Prominent among the foreigners is the Brazilian midfielder Raphael Augusto, who helped Chennaiyin FC lift the ISL title in 2018.

The other foreigners include the Costa Rican forward Daniel Colindres and the Iranian defender Milad Sheykhi Soleimani.

“We had some injury issues earlier but now we have a fully fit team and that is giving us confidence ahead of the match. We will take it as a final and try to give our best,” said the Abahani captain Nabib Newaj Jibon.

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :