BFC eyes win to start AFC Cup group stage campaign on a high

Bengaluru has made it to the group stage of the AFC Cup, after routing TC Sports of Maldives, 5-0, in the second leg here on February 21.

Bengaluru FC (above) is going into the match with its tails up, after an enthralling 3-1 win against FC Pune City, in the second leg of the Indian Super League, on March 11.   -  AFP

The buzz in the air might be that of the impending Indian Super League (ISL) final, but Bengaluru FC (BFC) has to momentarily turn its attention to the AFC Cup, where it takes on Abahani Dhaka, in its Group 'E' opener, at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Wednesday.

More than half of the first-team squad is likely to be rested, but with this being only the first game of the campaign, coach Albert Roca seemed relaxed. “I have to keep the final in mind. I would have liked to pay more attention, because this competition is important. But it is only one game. We can make up later [lost ground if any],” Roca said.

“I won't play with the first XI, but I feel it is enough to get the points. We are not here to compete for nothing. There is the final, but the present is also important, and we will try to win.”

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For the away side, playing a less than full strength BFC side will present the best chance to earn some points. Abahani, after winning it's domestic league in early January, has played only one match since then – its AFC Cup group stage opener, last week, against New Radiant, which it duly lost.

It has a new coach in the form of Saiful Bari Titu, who is just three weeks into his job, and will have to make do without the services of Nigerian striker, on Sunday, Chizoba Nwadialu, who was sent off against New Radiant. In the top scorer’s absence, compatriot Emeka Onuoha will lead the line, along with Japanese midfielder Seija Kojima.

“We didn't have a pre-season. The league ended only in January, and it's always a problem with the scheduling. Then, we couldn't get a few foreign players, because of visa-related issues. Also, our league is not competitive. We can afford to let some of our mistakes go unpunished there, but not here,” said Saiful.

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