AFC Cup: Bengaluru FC hosts Abahani Dhaka

Ever since it won the league and cup double back home in 2016, Abahani has played only two competitive games – both in the AFC Cup – and lost both.

Bengaluru FC players practice in the rain on the eve of AFC CUP match against Abahani Dhaka FC at Sri Kanteerava stadium.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

The last time Bengaluru FC won three consecutive games was in early January when it recorded victories in the first three I-League matches of the season. In the time since then, it even failed to win two on the bounce.

Ever since the AFC Cup campaign has begun however, it has won four out of five, including its last three. Two of those have come in the Cup and as it takes on Abahani Dhaka in its third Group E game on Tuesday, it will no doubt have its tail up.

It has to be said that in this period the club's performance hasn't improved vastly. Against both Maziya in the Cup and Aizawl in the I-League, it won 1-0 and left it rather late. But more than reinforcing the lack of cutting edge which has been evident for most part of the season, it has brought to the forefront a quality which the club was presumed to possess until not so long ago – to eke out results however tough the circumstances.

“We are now more confident,” said coach Albert Roca. “The victories are important but also the performance. I wasn't very happy with our performance against Aizawl. But sometime we don't win despite playing better. The last game against Shillong we did well. So I expect the same tomorrow.”

Against Abahani though, his team shouldn't break much sweat. He will have a few names missing – forward Udanta Singh and goalkeeper Amrinder Singh remain injured while defender Sandesh Jhingan and midfielder Cameron Watson are suspended. Roca himself will not be on the touchline after being sent off against Maziya. But the visiting side's problems are graver.

Ever since it won the league and cup double back home in 2016, Abahani has played only two competitive games – both in the AFC Cup – and lost both. It has also lost nearly 10 players from the title-winning side. Against a sanctioned strength of four overseas players (including one Asian), it will play with only two because of visa-related issues with its new signings.

Much will rest on forwards Jonathan Brown, who has represented Wales at U-17, U-19 and U-21 levels, and Nigerian Emeka Darlington, and midfielder Sohel Rana. Darlington and Rana have past experience of playing in India too.

“In football anything is possible," insisted Abahani's Croatian coach Drago Mamic. "Even a team with an outside chance can win.” Yet, its not something that will strike fear in the BFC ranks.