AFC Cup: ‘Motivated’ Bengaluru FC takes on Maziya in must-win game

A win will take Bengaluru FC (9 points) into the knock-out round, while a draw will suffice for table-topper Maziya Sports and Recreation Club (12 points) to make the cut.

Bengaluru FC team trains on Tuesday ahead of AFC Cup match.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Bengaluru FC (BFC) takes on Maziya Sports and Recreation Club in a do-or-die AFC Cup Group ‘E’ encounter at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Wednesday. A win will take BFC (9 points) into the knock-out round, while a draw will suffice for table-topper Maziya S&RC (12 points) to make the cut. This is the final group stage encounter for both sides.

BFC, fresh from its Federation Cup title-triumph achieved 10 days ago, will miss the services of the injured Udanta Singh. The home fans, however, will be thrilled to see star players Sunil Chhetri and C.K. Vineeth in action. There were fitness concerns surrounding the duo, but coach Albert Roca stated that they have recovered in time for this crucial clash.

“Sunil are Vineeth are ready for tomorrow. Only Udanta is out,” Roca said, adding, “at the end of a tough season, we want to finish with a win. The players may be a little tired, but they are very motivated.”

Roca explained that his side is wary of the visitor’s prowess on the counter-attack. “Maziya is a well-organised team. They will punish you if you give them a chance on the counter-attack. But for us, we have only option - and that is to get three points. From the very first minute, we have to show them that we are here to win,” he said.

Maldives unit Maziya S&RC has enjoyed a good run in the tournament thus far. In five league outings, the side had notched up four victories. Its only loss came at the hands of BFC last month, when defender John Johnson struck a match-winning injury-time goal.

Coach Marjan Sekulovski did not make much of that setback. “Even though we lost, we take a lot of confidence from that show. This is because BFC scored the goal 30 seconds after extra-time. The referee had awarded three minutes of extra-time, and Johnson scored at 93 minutes and 30 seconds. This time, we want to show everyone what we are capable of. We want to create history for Maziya and football in Maldives,” he said.

The 44-year-old from Republic of Macedonia added, “We have to be at our best, because BFC is one of the best sides in Asia, and surely the best side in India. It also one of the richest clubs in this region. We cannot compare with them in terms of money or international achievements, but we can compare with them in terms of being a good team.”

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