Bengaluru FC eyes AFC Cup group stages amid tension in the Maldives

BFC has travelled without the likes of Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Juanan Gonzalez and Dimas Delgado for the first leg of the AFC Cup tie against TC Sports Club on Tuesday.

Bengaluru FC ISL

File image of Bengaluru FC players in training.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Amid concerns over the state of emergency in the country, Bengaluru FC has arrived in the Maldives hoping for success in a crucial AFC Cup qualifying play-off. BFC, which has travelled without the likes of Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Juanan Gonzalez and Dimas Delgado for the first leg of the tie, will meet TC Sports Club at the Rasmee Dhandu Stadium in Male on Tuesday.

BFC is fresh off victory over FC Goa in the ISL, a result that made the side the first to secure a play-off spot. Head coach Albert Roca, though, was wary of the opposition. “This is going to be a tougher challenge than the one we faced in Bhutan (in the previous qualifying round)," the Spaniard said. "They (TC Sports Club) have made it to this stage on the back of two good games against the team from Bangladesh (Saif SC). Their confidence and their comfort with the humid weather that we aren’t used to, makes the challenge bigger.”

The fixture will be BFC's sixth in the space of 19 days. In the 11 days afterwards, the side is set to play three more games, leaving Roca with no option than to rotate his squad. While some of the big names are missing -- Erik Paartalu and Toni Dovale are the only overseas players in the squad -- the likes of Cletus Paul and Leon Augustine, from the reserves, have had the opportunity to travel over.

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“It’s something (rotating) we’ve been doing often and it works for us because we have a hungry squad that is willing to grab the chances it gets," he said. "Yes, we have qualified for the play-off stages in the ISL but it’s important to keep our winning momentum going and we play a tough side in FC Pune City on Friday."

The political unrest in the Maldives had led the Ministry of External Affairs to issued an advisory against "all non-essential travel" to the Maldives, but BFC made the trip after receiving assurances from the AFC. Upon arrival in the country, the club has described the situation as normal.

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