AFC Cup: BFC takes on New Radiant amidst tight schedule

Bengaluru FC faces Maldivian side New Radiant in the AFC Cup on Tuesday, as its AFC campaign coincides with the inaugural Indian Super Cup.A

Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri in a training session at the Kanteerava Stadium on Monday.   -  Special Arrangement

In an all-important top of the table clash, Bengaluru FC will take on Maldivian side New Radiant in the AFC Cup at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Tuesday. Both teams have won their opening two Group E games and with only the topper guaranteed a spot in the next round, the back-to-back fixtures between the two sides over the next fortnight assume greater importance.

“These two games will be the key,” declared the visiting coach Oscar Bruzon. “We are tied on points, goals scored and goals conceded. So this head to head matters. We didn't play in this competition last year but we worked hard to get back. We now have the opportunity to see how far or near we are to the best team in Indian football.”

However BFC coach Albert Roca isn't in an enviable position. The continental competition has coincided with the inaugural Indian Super Cup, thereby ensuring that neither tournament will have the club's undivided attention. A case in point is Friday's Super Cup quarterfinal match, which is sure to cast a shadow over BFC's team selection against New Radiant.

“I have never seen a tournament which starts but doesn't seem to end,” Roca said referring to the AFC Cup's long-drawn calendar. “It should not be like this. It's a shame to break the competition. It's important to make a calendar which benefits all teams equally. In a very short period we are playing very important games. Tomorrow is crucial. But on Friday I have a very important knock-out game,” he added.

As a result Roca revealed that he will be forced to rest defender Juanan Gonzalez, who has been experiencing some discomfort in his ribs. New Radiant will hope that star striker Ali Ashfaq – described by Bruzon as one among the two best South Asian players along with Sunil Chhetri – can fully capitalise.

The skipper starred with a hat-trick in the come-from-behind victory over Aizawl FC in the last game and is again expected to be the focal point.