AFC Cup: Bengaluru FC faces tough test

The venue and opponent aren’t alien to Bengaluru after the two sides were grouped together in 2015.

Sunil Chhetri is likely to start against Maziya S&RC, the champion of the Maldives.   -  Special arrangement

Bengaluru FC will be up against a new-look Maziya S&RC side and humid weather conditions when the teams, drawn together in Group E of the AFC Cup, battle it out at the National Football Stadium here on Tuesday.

The venue and opponent aren’t alien to Bengaluru after the two sides were grouped together in 2015. The I-League team won both legs by a 2-1 margin, with Chhetri’s brace in Male helping it advance to the Round of 16 in what was the club’s first AFC Cup appearance.

But much has changed for Maziya since then with coach Marjan Sekulovski taking charge of the team in 2017. A number of overseas players have been signed, in goalkeeper Pavel Matiash (Kyrgyzstan), defenders Andrei Cordos (Romania) and Milos Kovacevic (Montenegro), and striker Aleksandar Rakic (Serbia).

Like BFC, Maziya too got its 2017 campaign off to a winning start with a 2-0 victory away to Abahani in Dhaka and Albert Roca understands that his side will not have it easy.

The Spaniard chose to rest skipper Sunil Chhetri, Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Lenny Rodrigues in the defeat to Mohun Bagan in the I-League over the weekend, in a bid to keep them fresh for Tuesday and the trio, in all probability, will be handed starts against the champion of the Maldives.

“We had a situation with our fixtures and I took the call to rest Sunil. He’s been playing 90 minutes for us and then the National team and I think he deserved a break to be ready for what will be a very tough game on Tuesday,” he said.

BFC has begun the AFC Cup well, putting aside its indifferent form in the I-League to beat Mohun Bagan 2-1 in its opening game. It will require a similar effort to claim a second win.