Familiar foes Bengaluru FC and ATK Mohun Bagan lock horns in AFC Cup Group stage tie

Bengaluru FC will take on ATK Mohun Bagan in their AFC Cup Group D clash at Male on Wednesday. Bengaluru beat Club Eagles 1-0 in the playoff on Sunday, while ATK Mohun Bagan will be playing its first competitive game since the ISL final in March.

ATKMB vs BFC

ATK Mohun Bagan's David Williams and Bengaluru FC's Suresh Singh will be key players to watch out for in Wednesday's AFC Cup game. (File Image)   -  ISL/Sportzpics

Bengaluru FC (BFC) will look to get the better of familiar foe ATK Mohun Bagan for the first time since 2019 when the two sides clash in their AFC Cup Group D match here on Wednesday.

BFC will be looking to carry its momentum as it beat Club Eagles 1-0 in the playoff on Sunday. Coach Marco Pezzaiuoli's side is grouped alongside ATK Mohun Bagan, Bashundhara Kings and Maziya S&RC, with only one team set to qualify for the inter-zone playoff semifinals.

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"Our last game was only two days ago, so it was a short recovery for the team. It's not really an advantage, but I can see the glass either as half empty or half full, and I choose to see it half full.

"There was a good spirit and positive energy in the team after the win. We need to be very sharp against ATK Mohun Bagan, because I am expecting an aggressive game," said Pezzaiuoli, speaking at the pre-match press conference.

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ATK Mohun Bagan, which qualified for the group stages of the competition by virtue of the erstwhile Mohun Bagan's victorious 2019-20 I-League campaign, has made some strong recruitments since its defeat to Mumbai City FC in the 2020-21 Indian Super League final. The Kolkata-based side roped in several top players over the summer, including the likes of French midfielder Hugo Boumous, goalkeeper Amrinder Singh, Liston Colaco, Ashutosh Mehta, Bidyananda Singh and Deepak Tangri.

 

"ATK Mohun Bagan like to play a lot of long passes, go for the second ball and press high up on the pitch, which calls for a different approach from us. But they have also changed things in the summer, by bringing in a French foreigner (Hugo Boumous), among other players.

"This shows that they want to win the Indian Super League and the AFC Cup. We have to be in good spirit, show good focus and I am certain that we have a chance of winning tomorrow," Pezzaiuoli added.

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ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Antonio Habas was equally confident of his side's chances against Bengaluru FC.

"With all that is happening with the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of participation from our foreign stars, we are (still) looking forward to doing our best in the competition," he said.

Habas' team last played competitively in the Indian Super League final in March against Mumbai City and the Spanish tactician felt the long break between games may not necessarily be an advantage for his team.

"I know we have not kicked the ball for a while and obviously our players have had adequate rest but that doesn't mean we have the clear advantage. I don't believe in this philosophy as I think the team who shows more desire will win tomorrow," he said.

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Jayesh Rane scored the only goal of the game when the Blues beat Club Eagles, and with only three games to play in the group stages, goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu said the task at hand was one that required focus and commitment from all corners.

"It's true that things are different this time, because there are fewer games to play in the Group. But it is still difficult, and we have to be focused. It was important for us to get into the Group Stage because we want to do well in Asia, as a club," said Gurpeet.

The ATK Mohun Bagan vs Bengaluru FC match will kick-off at 4.30 PM IST.

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